Our methodology involves ranking the Top 50 Smart City Governments from a broadlist of cities that were drawn from existing smart city rankings, news articles, and websites. Eighty-two municipalities emerged as the most notable leaders in the worldwide smart city movement, appearing a minimum of two times in smart city rankings such as the 2017 Smart Cities Index by Easypark; the 2016 Cities in Motion Index by IESE; the Smart Cities Ranking by Juniper Research; or Smart Cities Prospects published by Procedia Computer Science. Cities featured in these rankings are pioneers in Smart City development, with their governments deserving of further study. An additional 58 cities that were frequently featured in the past year’s news articles were added to this list; these were cities with budding Smart City plans but had not yet been accounted for in existing rankings. After screening these 140 cities on their commitment to building a Smart City, we ranked the best-performing 50 Smart City Governments based on several criteria. Drawing from our experience advising government agencies and devising solutions for urban planning, we note that smart cities may develop on three dimensions:
(i) Scope: Whether the development of the smart city centered around just a few landmark projects, or if it encompassed a wide range of different city services and municipal departments. For example, Tokyo’s smart city plan focuses heavily on sustainability, exploring how technology can reduce food waste and energy usage. Vienna is implementing over a hundred smart city solutions in education, energy management, environment, healthcare, mobility, social inclusion, and urban development.
(ii) Scale: The size of the smart city projects, whether denoted by the geographical coverage, citizens involved, or project budgets. For instance, Better Reykjavik is a participatory budgeting portal that allows citizens to suggest and vote electronically on ideas to improve their neighborhoods. This has given rise to over 600 citizen ideas implemented at an average project size of only USD 32,000. In contrast, central planning in Shenzhen helped its smart city projects scale tremendously. It equipped 700 buses with facial recognition technology. Unique identification numbers were issued to 600,000 buildings and 11 million flats. Its online public service resource centre has 14 billion records and exchanges 20 million records daily.
(iii) Integration: Whether the data from the projects were aggregated for analysis and if concerted actions came about as a result. For example, New York integrated the call centres of over 40 City departments into a single municipal services hotline. It analyzed data from over 18 million requests to improve city services, introduce new initiatives, and raise customer satisfaction. Helsinki’s smart city development is driven by different agencies innovating at the municipal level; as a city; for its metropolitan area; and also within its smart district. While the initiatives may not be fully-integrated, the decentralized leadership helps to ensure its resilience as a smart city.
The overview above illustrates how the Top 50 Smart City Governments took on comparatively different pathways in developing their projects. Based on different pathways, the following ten rubrics were derived to rank the Smart City Governments:
VISION. A clear and well-defined strategy to develop a “smart city”
LEADERSHIP. Dedicated City leadership that steers smart city projects
BUDGET. Sufficient funding for smart city projects
FINANCIAL. Financial incentives to effectively encourage private sector participation (e.g. grants, rebates, subsidies, competitions)
SUPPORT PROGRAMMES. In-kind programmes to encourage private actors to participate (e.g. incubators, events, networks)
POLICIES. A conducive policy environment for smart city development (e.g. data governance, IP protection, urban design)
ECOSYSTEMS. A comprehensive range of engaged stakeholders to sustain innovation
PEOPLE-CENTRICITY. A sincere, people-first design of the future city
TALENT-READINESS. Programmes to equip the city’s talent with smart skills
TRACK RECORD. The government’s experience in catalyzing successful smart city initiatives
These ten factors constitute a complete range of considerations for city governments to formulate their Smart City strategies. Each of the cities were ranked on a scale of one to three representing low to high, based on level of performance determining readiness. Cities were scored on these categories, leading to the final top 50 rankings. With each factor, a “high” would indicate a best-in-class effort that could involve originality and resourcefulness, multiple institutionalized initiatives, demonstrated authenticity and commitment, and success attributable to that vector.
In the final stage of the study, we also engaged with urban planners such as Mayors, Chief Information Officers, and Chief Smart City Project Managers for interviews to validate facts and to share their unique city stories. Primary research with city leaders helped to complete the picture and ensure that each city government was represented fairly and comprehensively in this study.