Singapore takes top spot in inaugural global smart city citizen survey

Published Thu, Oct 3, 2019 · 08:00 AM
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SINGAPORE has taken top spot in a new citizen-centric global smart city index (SCI) which surveyed 120 citizens from each of the 102 cities that took part.

The inaugural index looks at how citizens perceive the scope and impact of efforts to make their cities "smart", balancing economic and technological aspects with "humane dimensions".

"Smart" is defined as assessing a city's efforts and success in embracing smart technologies to improve the lives of their citizens.

Swiss city Zurich took second spot, followed by Oslo, Geneva, Copenhagen, Auckland, Taipei, Helsinki and Bilbao, with German city Dusseldorf rounding out the top 10.

The index is published by Switzerland's International Institute for Management Development (IMD) and Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD).

Being a globally recognised smart city is now critical for attracting investment and talent, creating a potential virtuous cycle in favour of an advanced group of cities such as Singapore, Zurich and Oslo, IMD said.

There is no one-size-fits-all strategy to becoming a smart city, but all three leading cities score highly for "structures" - how services are made available to citizens, added IMD.

Their scores vary for "technologies", which assesses real impact on citizens' daily lives. Singapore performs well in safety, monitoring of air quality and traffic congestion, while Zurich is strong in public transportation and access to medical and cultural services.

Oslo's citizens hail the quality of "circular economy" solutions, online voting and bicycle-centric mobility.

Obstacles in the way of the growth of smart cities include a gap between the priorities of municipal authorities and citizens.

Many technologies remain largely ignored by the populations they are claiming to serve. In many instances, advanced online services are theoretically available to citizens, but too cumbersome or insufficiently advertised to meet a critical mass of users, said IMD.

In most cases, such services seem to have been initiated in a top-down manner, rather than being based on the priorities of citizens, it added.

Concerns and aspirations of citizens vary widely depending on culture and socio-economic environments. Singaporeans' top priorities were affordable housing and fulfilling employment.

Quality of life - including environment, safety, access to health and education services, but also mobility and social interaction - is becoming a prominent aspiration for smart cities worldwide, said IMD.

The index includes an assessment of attitudes towards the use of personal data, face recognition and overall trust towards local authorities.

Many Chinese citizens and also Dubai citizens seem more at ease than other parts of the world, such as Singapore and cities in the US.

Singaporeans were less willing to give up personal data, and were below the average on comfort with facial recognition.

They were also just below the average when polled on whether online information has increased trust in the authorities.

"The Asia-Pacific region has a special role to play in helping us identify the right strategies to build smart cities in a way that should be human-centric rather than technology-centric," said Chan Heng Chee, chairman of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at SUTD.

"The experience of Singapore is very different from that of Shenzhen or Jakarta, or even Melbourne," said Prof Chan.

Bruno Lanvin, president of IMD's Smart City Observatory at the IMD World Competitiveness Center, said: "Smart cities are becoming magnets for investment, talent and trade. Yet, a significant part of the efforts and energy spent seem to be disconnected from the long-term aspirations of citizens.

"Without citizen's support and engagement, smart cities may not be sustainable. The SCI intends to fill a gap by being a reference and tool for action to build inclusive and dynamic cities."

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