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Singapore beats NY, Seoul in ranking of smart city govts

07 Jul 2018

Natalie Choy

Republic scored high in financial incentives and smart policies, offering initiatives to increase citizens' quality of life: study


SINGAPORE edged ahead of Seoul and New York to rank second in an inaugural study that unveiled the top 50 smart city governments in the world.

Conducted by Eden Strategy Institute and OXD, the study analysed the various smart city approaches that governments adopt. London claimed the top spot.

A total of 140 city governments were assessed based on 10 criteria, including budget, financial incentives, smart policies, talent readiness, people-centric approaches and track record of previous projects.

The Singapore government fared best in areas of financial incentives and smart policies, as it offers "a broad scope of smart city-related initiatives to increase the quality of life for its citizens", noted the report.

One such initiative is the Digital Readiness blueprint that seeks to improve Singaporeans' access to technology and equip them with skills to use technology confidently. Grants such as the SkillsFuture programme also help offset upskilling or reskilling costs.

European cities Helsinki and Barcelona join London in the top 10, ranked fifth and ninth respectively. These cities scored well due to their citizen-centric approaches in developing smart city projects, including the use of joint consultation, co-creation, and participatory budgeting.

For example, Wi-Fi-enabled tablets are loaned to community groups in London to enable staff and volunteers to upskill.

Fourth and seventh-placed New York and Boston also did well, due to a federal government competition which spurred governments to develop strategies that focused on urban mobility.

In a separate study by McKinsey, Singapore is a "smart city sandbox" in South-east Asia (SEA).

The recent report classified SEA cities into four categories, according to their level of development and the type of smart solutions they could adopt to enhance their quality-of-life indicators.

Singapore is the only "smart city sandbox" in the region due to its sound infrastructure and existing smart solutions. A higher quality of life will largely be driven by next-generation technologies, said the report.

Primary cities such as Jakarta, Manila, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are the "prime movers" in the region.

These cities will be able to address quality-of-life inefficiencies by retrofitting their existing infrastructure.

"Emerging champions" are mid-size cities like Cebu, Hanoi, Phnom Penh, and Yangon, who will benefit most by integrating infrastructure, hardware and software to deliver high-value and cost-effective impact.

The "agile seedbeds" - cities with a population of less than one million - such as Da Nang, Luang Prabang, Phuket and Siem Reap have the potential to "benefit tremendously" through targeted incorporation of sensors in the city's traffic planning, instead of costly retrofits of traffic infrastructure, said the report.

"Cities facing tough budgetary choices will have to prioritise the practical over the flashiest new technologies," said Mr Mukund Sridhar, partner and leader of McKinsey's Infrastructure Practice in SEA.

He added: "Installing digital systems to manage traffic, coordinating networks of hospitals, or cutting down on bureaucratic paperwork may yield more impact than highly visible touchscreens on the street."

View image: Top 10 Smart City Government ranking