Singapore is world's smartest city for third year: IMD Smart City Index

Singapore is the smartest city in the world for the third year running, according to this year's Smart City Index.

Published by Swiss business school Institute for Management Development (IMD) and the Singapore University of Technology (SUTD) and Design last Thursday, the index ranks 118 cities by how "smart" they are.

A "smart city" is an urban setting that applies technology to enhance the benefits and diminish the shortcomings of urbanisation for its citizens. The Smart City Index takes into account input from the cities' residents of how technology had improved their lives. About 120 residents from each city were surveyed in July this year.

Dr Bruno Lanvin, president of IMD's Smart City Observatory, told The Straits Times that Singapore's achievement is largely due to the policies it pursued at both the city and national level - particularly in e-government services, education and human-centric urban strategies. He noted that the Republic had gone through the Sars crisis and was better prepared to face the current Covid-19 pandemic as compared to other cities around the world. "Its higher degree of social cohesion was also a factor, as well as the availability of digital facilities (typically apps) that allowed the close monitoring of how the virus was circulating," he said.

But it is still too early to infer from the findings how the pandemic had impacted the survey participants in Singapore, he added.

IMD's evaluation of the city's ranking did not take into account Singapore's handling of migrant workers during the pandemic this and last year, which attracted criticism locally and internationally. Also, the survey was done in early July this year, during which Covid case numbers were low, said Professor Chan Heng Chee of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at SUTD.

Participants in each city were asked questions on their ideas of existing infrastructure and technological provisions and services available to them. These were on five areas: health and safety, mobility, activities, opportunities, and governance. Survey participants were also asked to select five out of 15 priority areas, like affordable housing or health services, for their city. Other questions to the residents included: "Do you feel the availability of online information has increased your trust in the authorities?"

For this year's rankings, the final score for each city was computed using the answers from residents surveyed this year and in the past two years, with the most weight given to recent replies and the least to those recorded in 2019. This helps to reduce excessive variability through the years because of the occurrence of specific events, said Mr Christos Cabolis, chief economist and head of operations at IMD's World Competitiveness Centre (WCC). "It also helps to take an 'average', so to speak, for the period between the two times that the residents of a city were sampled."

The rankings also takes into account economic and social data taken from the United Nations Development Index, which ranks countries on the basis of health, education and living standards.

The team behind this year's Smart City Index said the findings showed the top concern worldwide is access to affordable housing. But access to better air quality and health services has become a greater priority in cities worldwide since Covid-19 occurred. "Clearly, Covid-19 has changed the ways in which leaders and citizens of smart cities view the challenges ahead," said WCC director Arturo Bris. "Environmental emergencies will also remain very high on the agenda of smart cities, and this is an area in which citizens' expectations - and sometimes ambivalent attitudes vis-a-vis technology - will need careful attention."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 02, 2021, with the headline 'Singapore is world's smartest city for third year: IMD Smart City Index'. Subscribe