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Zurich, Oslo top list of world’s smartest cities

These are the ten smartest cities in the world, according to IMD.

Anton Aleksenko | Istock | Getty Images

Smart cities in Europe and Asia are gaining ground globally while North American cities have fallen down the ranks, according to the 2024 Smart City Index released April.

Of the top 10 smart cities on the list, seven were in Europe.

This year’s index was produced by the IMD World Competitiveness Center’s Smart City Observatory in collaboration with the World Smart Sustainable Cities Organization (WeGO) that’s based in Seoul, South Korea.

The report ranks 142 smart cities worldwide based on data analyzed by researchers, as well as survey responses of 120 residents in each city. The study captures an overview of how the infrastructure and technology available in a city impacts the city’s performance and the quality of life of its inhabitants.

So, what is a smart city?

According to the IMD, a smart city is defined as “an urban setting that applies technology to enhance the benefits and diminish the shortcomings of urbanization for its citizens.”

With very few exceptions, cities in the top 20 are geographically located in areas where social and economic environments are relatively predictable, even against the overall climate of global uncertainties.

IMD Smart City Index 2024

The cities that perform well on the list have also developed initiatives that cater to their citizens’ overall quality of life.

“Such initiatives have focused on developing green spaces and broadening opportunities for cultural events and social bonding, for example,” according to the report.

“In the majority of these leading cities, such efforts have been combined with innovative strategies to attract and retain talent, foster investment in a selective fashion [e.g. pro-sustainability], and tackle long standing issues regarding geographical inequalities and inclusion,” the report said.

Here are the top 10 smart cities, according to the 2024 Smart City Index.

  1. Zurich, Switzerland
  2. Oslo, Norway
  3. Canberra, Australia
  4. Geneva, Switzerland
  5. Singapore
  6. Copenhagen, Denmark
  7. Lausanne, Switzerland
  8. London, England
  9. Helsinki, Finland
  10. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Notably, for the first time since the index’s inception in 2019, there is an absence of North American cities in the top 20.

“Using three year moving averages (i.e. comparing a city’s average ranking for the period 2021-24 to that of the period 2020-23), a significant number of US cities have been losing ground,” according to the report.

“This is the case in particular for Washington DC, Denver, and Los Angeles (-12, -12, and -11 respectively), but also for San Francisco (-9), New York City (-7), and Chicago (-4).”

The highest ranking U.S. city this year is New York City which ranked 34th, followed by Boston at 36th and Washington DC, coming in at 50th place.

While European cities dominated the list, Asian cities are gaining ground too.

Here are the top 5 smart cities in Asia:

  1. Singapore (5th)
  2. Beijing (13th)
  3. Taipei City (16th)
  4. Seoul (17th)
  5. Shanghai (19th)

Singapore has consistently ranked among the top 10 positions since the index’s inception in 2019. It ranked 7th from 2020 to 2023 — except in 2022 when no rankings were released, and jumped up two positions this year.

Taipei City has also jumped 13 positions over the last year, from 29th in 2023 to 16th this year.

“Cities must design and adopt strategies that can resist the test of a future plagued with growing uncertainties,said Bruno Lanvin, president of the Smart City Observatory.

“Health-related concerns remain high, while climate-related ones grow even larger; a mix complicated by renewed international tensions. Trust and good governance are growing in importance, and the significance of Al in city design and management is set to increase,” he said in the report.

“Counterintuitive as it may sound, Al can help cities to become more human-centric,” Lanvin added.

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