Over half of the planet now lives in cities, and more than two-thirds of the world’s population will be urbanized by 2050. Cities are proactively working across borders to build coalition networks and resist nationalist policies. They contribute to four-fifths of global GDP, and are taking centerstage in securing an inclusive, safe, productive, sustainable, and resilient future for humanity.

Smart Cities have emerged as urban ecosystems that integrate digital technology, knowledge, and assets to become more responsive to users, improve city services, and make cities more loveable. Leading the development and re-invigoration of effective, high-performing cities is one of the grandest challenges of our time.

Much of the existing literature on smart cities focuses on how far each city has come and the resulting benefits. This may not offer adequate guidance to city leaders on what they should do, when each city operates in such a unique context. City planners require forward-looking and practical comparisons and guides, by understanding the budgets, infrastructure, policies, services, and innovative governance and resourcing models of different cities.

Beyond a set of rankings, this collection of the Top 50 Smart City Governments therefore details the development of smart cities from a city government’s perspective. It identifies a suite of 10 key tools that mayors have found effective to develop smart cities, details our reflections on how these tools were applied differently to achieve a range of outcomes, and highlights the achievements of 50 leading governments that have steered their smart cities forward.

There is rarely a complete, universal recipe of what a government should do to make its city smart; each city works through a different “Theory of Change”. Governance often involves a balance between attending to a context-dependent market failure, and stepping back before creating a market distortion.

As much as the methodology we undertook allows us to benchmark comparable governmental actions, we should emphasize that this ambitious project is intended to celebrate each one of these 50 city governments as clear winners whose stories need to be told.

We hope that this study will inspire all cities to become smart, loveable, and future-ready. We wish you every success in your smart city journey, and trust that you will share our enjoyment in learning from these Top 50 Smart City Governments.