Singapore, Seoul and London have been named as the leaders in the second edition of the Top 50 Smart City Government rankings published by global consulting company Eden Strategy Institute.

Where other smart city rankings tend to be based on factors such as the number of technology solutions deployed or how attractive cities are for investment, the Eden Strategy Institute study focuses specifically on the role of city governments as a key driver for smart city development.

Researchers assessed cities based on ten indicators, including vision, leadership, talent readiness and effective smart city financing and policy models.

Calvin Chu Yee Ming, Managing Partner at Eden Strategy Institute, said: “Top smart city governments in the 2020/2021 rankings were able to collaborate and partner with public and private sector stakeholders, and use digital solutions and data to deliver services and make decisions – all while considering implications on inclusion and citizen trust.”

Source: Eden Strategy Institute Top 50 Smart City Government rankings 2020/21

Other cities that make the top ten include Barcelona, Helsinki, New York and Shanghai.

Eighteen new cities entered this year’s Top 50 list, including Tallinn, Oslo and Moscow. A number of Chinese cities, such as Hangzhou, Guangzhou, Chengdu and Chongqing, also made it into the rankings “due to notable efforts to drive innovation and support talent development”.

The report states that the most significant changes to the rankings this year can be attributed to how cities managed COVID-19, as well as their broader resilience, adaptability, foresight and proactiveness in anticipating and addressing urban challenges.


Source: Eden Strategy Institute Top 50 Smart City Government rankings 2020/21

On the value of ranking cities, Callysta Thony, Smart Cities Lead at Eden Strategy Institute, told Cities Today: “While cities themselves are difficult to compare, our focus on city governments helps to provide a more targeted and focused assessment based on the ten criterion which we’ve found are key considerations for an effective smart city strategy.

“Evaluating smart city government performance can be an effective driver for learning, accountability and dialogue, which we find to be important in the smart city space.”

Leading cities

The report highlights initiatives such as Singapore’s national digital identity programme, Go Digital scheme for SMEs and the LifeSG app which provides over 40 digital government services.

It does note, though, that: “While Singapore’s efforts in recent years have shifted towards delivering government services with more empathy and with the citizen in mind, there always remains more to be done. For example, its otherwise sterling management of COVID-19 was sullied by the neglecting of the health conditions of its migrant population, as well as growing privacy concerns surrounding the use of its contact tracing technology and collected data.”

Singapore has seen 30 COVID-19 deaths from 60,381 cases, which is among the lowest rates globally.

However, data in December found that migrant workers in Singapore have been disproportionately affected in terms of infections.

The TraceTogether COVID contact-tracing app also drew controversy when it was revealed that data could be accessed by police.

Earlier this month in an interview with the BBC, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: “I think we made a mistake. This app was designed for contact tracing and for pandemic purposes. But under the law, the police have powers to ask for information for criminal investigations and police investigations, and it covered this app. We should have said so upfront.”

He said the government has since passed a law to restrict the use of contact tracing data use to serious crimes, and information will be deleted once the pandemic is over.

“I think people have accepted that, and we will be able to live with this,” he said.

Seoul is recognised for its data-driven Owl Night Bus service, wide-scale deployment of IoT and public-private partnerships.

Examples from London include the Smarter London Together roadmap, a collaborative approach with local stakeholders and international cities, and the Mayor’s Civic Innovation Challenge approach to spurring solutions to address social challenges.

To compile the report, 235 cities were invited to a Call for Proposals to submit supporting details, reports, and outcomes. This was followed with interviews and a scoring process.

Image: Kirill Petropavlov on Unsplash

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