From smart traffic cameras and car-sharing apps to pollution monitoring and free wifi for everyone, cities around the world are vying to embrace technology, but researchers said the real test was whether citizens felt the benefits.
“The ‘smart’ cities of the world do not simply adopt new technology, they make sure it really improves the lives of citizens,” said Arturo Bryce of the Swiss-based International Institute for Management Development (IMD), which published the index. .
The Smart City Index, now in its second year, surveyed more than 13,000 people in 109 cities, focusing on how they perceived the impact of technology in five areas: health and safety, mobility, activities, opportunities and governance .
Others in the top 10 included Auckland, Oslo, Copenhagen, Geneva, Taipei City, Amsterdam, New York, while Abuja, Nairobi and Lagos ranked at the bottom.
The index, a collaboration with Singapore University of Technology and Design, showed that many countries are developing intelligent secondary cities beyond their capitals.
The Spanish city of Bilbao ranks higher than Madrid, while the second British city Birmingham has risen the index faster than London.
Bris, director of the IMD World Competition Center, said cities’ advantages in using technology varied greatly.
The Colombian city of Medellin – once known for its drug cartels but now a successor to intelligent planning – has seen a drop in crime since it introduced free WiFi, making it easier for people to report crime, he said.
Although many cities around the world have introduced car-sharing schemes in an effort to reduce congestion, Bris said Moscow had been particularly successful in persuading drivers to join them after introducing free parking for users.
Experts say COVID-19 has accelerated a shift towards more inclusive, greener and smarter cities.
Bris also predicted an upward trend towards smaller cities.
“I think we are moving to a world where we will be more dispersed. We will be safer if we live in smaller cities,” he added.
He said the survey highlighted that megacities often found it difficult to become smart.
“Smaller cities have an advantage,” he added. “In the case of Singapore, Helsinki and Zurich, their size allows them to invest significantly in technology that reaches all citizens.”
Although China is developing hundreds of smart cities equipped with sensors, cameras and other devices that can collect data on everything from pollution to public health, they rank relatively low in the index.
Bris said this was due to their size, but also due to concerns about data privacy and surveillance.
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