Abu Dhabi and Dubai have emerged as the smartest cities in the region, with the UAE capital jumping 14 spots to rank 42nd globally in a new index.
Over the past 12 months, Abu Dhabi has made a significant improvement in the Institute for Management Development's (IMD) 2020 Smart City Index, after having ranked 56th last year. Dubai, meanwhile, rose two places up to 43rd. The index ranks cities based on economic and technological data, as well as by their citizens' perceptions of how "smart" their cities are.
The IMD released the second edition of the index in collaboration with Singapore University for Technology and Design (SUTD) with key findings on how technology is playing a role in the Covid-19 era. Globally, Singapore, Helsinki and Zurich have come out on top in the index in a year that saw many European cities fall in the rankings.
According to the IESE Cities in Motion Index, New York, London and Paris are the three top ranking smart cities in the world. Hundreds of citizens from 109 countries were surveyed and asked questions on the technological provisions of their city across five key areas: Health and safety, mobility, activities, opportunities and governance. Reflected in this year's rankings is that cities have ever differing approaches to technology as managing the pandemic has become increasingly important in local politics.
"We cannot ignore the impact of Covid," said IMD Professor Arturo Bris, who led the work of the ranking as the director of the World Competitiveness Centre at the Swiss management institute that is behind it.
"Those with better technology manage the pandemic better. Smart cities are not the solution, but technology helps," he said.
"Smart cities closer to the top of the rankings seem to deal with unexpected challenges of the devastating pandemic with a better outcome," said Professor Heng Chee Chan, chairperson of the Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities at SUTD.
This year's rankings also highlighted the ability of countries to develop cities beyond their capital. In the 2020 rankings, Bilbao fares better than Madrid, and Birmingham this year improved by 12 positions whereas London jumped just five.
City economies like Hong Kong and Singapore, and to some extent the UAE, may be at a disadvantage because they are less able to develop second cities, Bris said.
"Countries are no longer economic units," said Bris.
Mayors and local authorities increasingly have the power to improve the well-being of citizens by implementing technology. "The American city of Boston is a good example of how management of its city by its mayor makes a big difference," Bris said.
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