Out of 102 cities in the world, Singapore is officially ranked the smartest city in 2019 by the very-first edition of the IMD Smart City Index 2019 (SCI).

The SCI is presented by the IMD World Competitiveness Center’s Smart City Observatory on 3 October 2019, in partnership with Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

This index finds that the 10 smartest cities in 2019 are: Singapore (1st), Zurich (2nd), Oslo (3rd), Geneva (4th), Copenhagen (5th), Auckland (6th), Taipei City (7th), Helsinki (8th), Bilbao (9th) and Dusseldorf (10th).

Proudly the only global index of its kind which focuses on ranking urban areas based on the perception of citizens. How citizens perceive the scale and impact of efforts to make their cities ‘smart’ is balanced against constructs such as “economic and technological aspects” and “humane dimensions”.

As such, the citizens point of view is heavily taken into consideration, it sheds light on the importance of aligning policies with the lives and needs of citizens.

So how to determine how ‘smart’ a city is ?

The SCI assesses a city’s efforts and success in embracing smart technologies to improve the lives of their citizens, thus being able to rate each city on a certain level of ‘smartness’.

Smart cities are a fast growing species

Being a globally-recognized ‘smart’ city has its own benefits. It is critical for attracting investment and talent, creating a potential ‘virtuous cycle’ in favour of an advanced group of cities such as Singapore, Zurich and Oslo.

Smart cities also create an optimal environment for cities to experiment in critical areas. These areas range from urban planning, sustainable energy, and transport strategies to social integration and talent attraction.

 “Smart cities are growing and blossoming in all parts of the world” explains Professor Arturo Bris, Director of the IMD World Competitiveness Center However, he also went a step further and highlighted that as a result,economic realities cannot be ignored: cities in poorer countries face disadvantages, which will require specific actions to correct along the path towards smartness, urging all cities to focus on becoming smarter.

So, how does one make their city smarter?

While there is neither a perfect nor ‘one size fits all’ strategy in becoming a smart city: all three leading cities in 2019 score highly for their ‘structures’, which assesses how services are made available to citizens.

One’s quality of life (including environment, safety, access to health and education services, but also mobility and social interaction) is also increasingly playing a more prominent role in citizens’ aspirations for ‘smart cities’ worldwide.

Nonetheless, it is imperative to take into consideration that the concerns and aspirations of citizens vary widely depending on culture and socio-economic environments.

For example, citizens in China are more at agile towards the use of personal data, face recognition and overall trust towards local authorities, compared to citizens in New York or Paris.

Thus, in developing a smart city, a focus on bridging the gap between the priorities of municipal authorities and those that are relevant to their citizens is important. The SCI found that many technologies remain largely ignored by the populations they are claiming to serve, which is an area that requires improvement in many countries.

To summarise, Bruno Lanvin, President of the IMD’s Smart City Observatory at the IMD World Competitiveness Center concludes with “smart cities are becoming magnets for investment, talent and trade”. However, he also acknowledged that a lot of effort has been put into areas that are “disconnected from the long-term aspirations of citizens”.

This is where this index comes in handy, because according to Prof. Lanvin, the SCI is the first and unique index that “intends to fill a gap by being a reference and tool for action to build inclusive and dynamic cities”. The SCI has changed how urban cities will be viewed, where ‘smartness’ is no longer measured purely by advancements in technologies, but now by the perception of the citizens themselves.