Beijing, Seoul, Singapore and Sydney feature in the top 10 of the recently released Digital Cities Index 2022, which ranks 30 global cities on four thematic pillars: connectivity, services, culture and sustainability.
The four Asia-Pacific cities are joined at the top of the list by Copenhagen, Amsterdam, London and Paris in Europe and New York and Washington DC in the United States.
According to Ritu Bhandari, Head of Policy and Ideas at Economist Impact, smart cities will be safer, cleaner and more inclusive urban landscapes, where citizens benefit from better health and public services, more efficient transport and major economic improvements to be shared as public goods.
“The index highlights how remote cities are leveraging technology to improve the quality of life for millions of citizens around the world. As we see strong leadership from Western European cities, the picture is led by major cities across a wide geographical distribution. The most significant improvements have been made against well-defined targets – a critical success factor for urban digital transformation,” Bhandari said.
An overview of the best artists
Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Beijing, London and Seoul performed best, with successful open data projects and major advancements in smart technology-based sustainability projects, such as utility management.
Cities with well-defined goals have realized the greatest benefits: European cities have implemented high-impact traffic management systems, while Beijing has made progress using applied digital technologies – tackling air pollution, optimizing its public services and promoting its sharing economy. Cities in Atlantic nations have led open data innovation with a boom in travel and mobility apps.
Sustainability was the most important area of impact highlighted by the white paper, with leading smart cities achieving significant air quality gains through smart utility management. Sustainability received the highest overall marks, with Copenhagen, Seoul and Toronto earning top marks for their use of digital technology to support urban sustainability.
Copenhagen and Singapore were the most connected cities, followed by Zurich, Beijing and Sydney. Singapore’s strategy to develop digital connectivity is based on the principle that AI, 5G and cybersecurity will drive the country’s growth and innovation after the crisis. Smart cities are expected to drive economic growth: 5G alone will enable a global mobility and transport market estimated at US$660 billion by 2035.
Internet services impact smart city goals
According to the index, unaffordable, unreliable or inaccessible internet services impact other city-level goals, with half a million households reportedly without a reliable internet connection in New York City, for example. , putting low-income children at a disadvantage for remote learning.
In contrast, Washington DC offered low-cost or free services and devices to families unable to afford a broadband subscription, and Paris has the most affordable mobile data of all the cities analyzed.
Digital technologies enable progress in public health
Since the pandemic, digital technologies have enabled real advances in public health. In Asia, apps have played a pivotal role in managing COVID-19, while telemedicine and real-time remote monitoring of chronic patients have marked digitalization everywhere. In New York, for example, a diabetes prevention initiative for adults reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 58% in high-risk people.
Singapore, São Paulo and New Delhi rank first for their provision of digital municipal services. New Delhi ranks high in part because of the success of Aadhar, India’s revolutionary national digital identity system. In Korea, Metaverse Seoul, announced in November 2021 by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, will allow citizens to access government services through the metaverse.
The index also noted that involving citizens in the design of smart city programs underpins meaningful inclusion, a critical success factor for smart city projects, as well as the achievement of well-defined goals.
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