London has been declared the smartest city in the world, according to the sixth edition of the annual IESE Cities in Motion Index 2019.
London has been declared the smartest city in the world for 2019 according to the IESE Cities in Motion Index by IESE Business School. Photocredit: Getty
Prepared by IESE Business School’s Center for Globalization and Strategy, under the direction of professors Pascual Berrone and Joan Enric Ricart, the index looks at the level of development of 174 cities from 80 countries. The cities are analyzed across nine dimensions considered key to truly sustainable cities: human capital (developing, attracting and nurturing talent), social cohesion (consensus among the different social groups in a city), economy, environment, governance, urban planning, international outreach, technology, and mobility and transportation (ease of movement and access to public services).
Instead of looking at only one aspect (such as technology or environmental sustainability), to perform well on the index a city needs to perform well across more than one dimension. Joan Enric Ricart, IESE Business School professor and co-author of the report, says this reflects the fact that, “a truly smart city is one that has as its goal improving the quality of life of its residents, which means ensuring economic, social and environmental sustainability.”
For readers interested in finding out how a particular city fares, an interactive website allows viewers to bring up the data for each city in the index, and compare two cities at the same time.
The Top Ten Smartest Cities In The World
While it remains to be seen how Brexit may affect its position in the future, London tops the ranking this year thanks to its excellent results in almost all areas analyzed by the index. It ranks first for human capital (thanks to its high numbers of quality business schools and universities), as well as international outreach, and is in the top ten for mobility and transportation (3), governance (7), technology (8) and urban planning (9). Its worst performance can be seen in the social cohesion dimension (45.)
The British capital hosts more start-ups and programmers than almost any other city in the world and has an open data platform (London Datastore) that is used by more than 50,000 individuals, companies, researchers and developers every month. Its innovation with regard to transportation has led it to install the Heathrow pods, capsules that work as a means of transit to connect with Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest on the planet. It is also pursuing one of Europe’s biggest construction projects (the Crossrail project), which will add 10 new train lines to the city to connect it with 30 already existing stations toward the end of 2019.
2. New York
The Big Apple is in second place overall due to its top place position on the economy dimension (1), as well as being among the top positions for human capital (3), urban planning (2), international outreach (8), technology (11), and mobility and transportation (5).
As well as being the world’s most important economic center, New York is home to almost 7,000 high-tech firms and stands out for its integrated technology services, such as the free Wi-Fi service LinkNYC. However, while New York’s economy is booming, its social cohesion still leaves much to be desired (placing, at 137, near the bottom of the list on this dimension.)
Amsterdam’s combination of financial technology, energy efficiency and culture make it an important European power, according to the index. Some 90% of households in Amsterdam have bicycles and it has an advanced system of automated services for the public use of shared bicycles. In addition, it has put forward a project to ban gasoline and diesel cars by the year 2025 and thus become Europe’s first zero-emissions city.
As well as performing well overall in the index, the city is also among the top 20 in the economy, technology, urban planning, international outreach, and mobility and transportation dimensions.
Paris is, together with London, one of the most important financial hubs in Europe. It is in fourth place in the overall ranking and stands out in the economy (position 8), human capital (6), international outreach (3), technology (15), and mobility and transportation (4) dimensions.
The City of Light works to promote clean transport through the use of bicycles and electric vehicles and it is a city characterized by open innovation, which gives its inhabitants and other actors control and access to the city’s data flows. Through the application of the Internet of Things (IoT), it tries to optimize the flows of people and vehicles in the city. The Grand Paris Express project is one of the biggest overhauls of transport in Europe, which will rethink and redesign the transport network in the city’s metropolitan area, adding four additional metro lines, 200 kilometers of new rail lines and 68 completely new interconnected stations, all with a 100% automatic metro system.
Despite being one of the smallest cities included in the index, Reykjavik punches above its weight by occupying position 5 in the overall ranking. For the second consecutive year, Iceland’s most populous city also leads the environment dimension.
Notably, more than 99% of electricity production and almost 80% of Reyjavik’s total energy production come from hydroelectric and geothermal energy, which makes its buildings naturally green. The city has also put forward a climate policy document with an action plan in which goals are established for a city with zero carbon emissions by 2040.
In complete contrast to Iceland´s small sized capital, the next city in the index is the most populous urban agglomeration in the world: Tokyo. Placing sixth in the overall ranking, Tokyo is one of the cities with the highest rates of labor productivity, and is also the highest ranked city from Asia. The city stands out particularly in the economy (3), human capital (9) and the environment (6) dimensions. In addition, it is in the top 30 for the dimensions of urban planning, mobility and transportation, and technology.
Singapore is the top city for technology (placing first on this dimension), as well as occupying position 4 in international outreach. In Singapore, everything revolves around technology: it has a fiberoptic network the length and width of the island and up to three mobiles for every two residents, and it has robot hospitals (with human staff and robots), autonomous taxis (with no driver), and vertical gardens and farms that regulate the temperature by absorbing and dispersing heat while collecting rainwater.
The Danish city of Copenhagen takes the eighth spot on the index. With the city’s commitment to be carbon neutral by 2025, it is perhaps not surprising that the city standouts for its performance on environmental issues, ranking third in the world on this dimension. It also places in the top 25 on technology (10), social cohesion (11), governance (12), international outreach (16), mobility and transportation (25) and the economy (25.)
Berlin places ninth in the overall ranking, largely thanks to it scoring high marks for human capital (5), international outreach (5), governance (6) and mobility and transportation (7.) In fact, the German city ranks in the top 50 on all dimensions, with its lowest positions being those for the economy (50) and the environment (47.)
The capital of Austria rounds out the top ten. The areas where Vienna performs best are mobility and transportation (7), as well as international outreach (7), where it ranks in the top ten on both dimensions. It also places in the top 25 for technology (13), the environment (15) and human capital (23.)
Regional Rankings: European Hegemony
As home to seven of the top 10 cities, Europe is the region that leads the ranking. According to the report, European cities score the most points for their quality of life and sustainability provisions. Looking at the top 50 positions, Europe’s dominance is still evident, with more than half of the cities (28) hailing from this continent. After Europe comes North America with 13. In general, North American cities tend to stand out for their economic and human capital strengths, while European cities shine for their social cohesion, transportation (mobility) and public management.
Following North America comes Asia with five cities in the top 50 (including Tokyo and Singapore, which place at number 6 and 7 on the ranking), and Oceania with four. Within Oceania, the top ranked city is Sydney (19). Trailing behind are the leaders of Latin America and Africa, which are Santiago de Chile (66) and Casablanca (155), respectively.
How Cities Can Improve
The perfect city does not exist, as the index clearly shows. Only an elite group — London, Amsterdam, Seoul and Vienna among them — manages to score relatively well in almost all the nine dimensions of city life evaluated. Many others are notably unbalanced.
Professors Berrone and Ricart stress that city managers should have a long-term view in order to set the right priorities for a sustainable future city. They also a caution that without citizens’ involvement, any strategy, no matter how smart or global it may be, will be destined for failure.
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