Singapore is world’s fifth smartest city, Manila drops six places to 121st

Other Asian cities in the top 20 include Beijing (13th), Taipei (16th), Seoul (17th), Shanghai (19th), and Hong Kong (20th).

The Lion City is the world’s fifth smartest city, moving up two levels from its ranking in 2023, according to the 2024 Smart City Index published on April 9.

The city-state also remains the smartest city in Asia, beating the likes of Beijing, Taipei, and Seoul.

Singapore smart city
Singapore is also Asia’s smartest city. Banner photo by Joshua Ang from Unsplash; photo above by Hu Chen

Zurich retained its title as the world’s smartest city, followed by Oslo, Canberra, and Geneva in that order. There are no US cities in the top 20 list in 2024.

Besides Singapore, other Asian cities in the top 20 include Beijing (13th), Taipei (16th), Seoul (17th), Shanghai (19th), and Hong Kong (20th).

Manila, meanwhile, finds itself at the opposite end of the spectrum, dropping six places to 121st from 115th last year. Its ranking has dropped steadily for the past four iterations of the study. 

A measure of a city’s quality of life among others

The International Institute for Management Development or IMD, a Swiss business school, releases a yearly Smart City Index, offering a balanced focus on economic and technological aspects of smart cities on the one hand, and “humane dimensions”—quality of life, environment, and inclusiveness—on the other. 

List of Smartest Cities
The Top 20 smartest cities in 2024 according to the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland. Photo from The Straits Times

The annual ranking grades 142 cities on how well they use technology to improve the quality of life of their citizens. Now in its fifth edition, readers can draw upon reliable time series to make comparisons between the performance of their respective cities across a period of five years.

The 2024 report was produced in partnership with the Seoul-based World Smart Sustainable Cities Organization, an international association of local governments, smart technology providers, and institutions.

According to the IMD website, 120 residents in each city were surveyed on issues like traffic congestion, whether free public Wi-Fi has improved access to city services, and if current internet speed and reliability meet connectivity needs.

Not everything is bleak

The findings of the report are not very surprising. Concerns raised about Manila include traffic congestion, public transport, air pollution, and corruption/transparency—problems residents have to contend with every day.

Other priority concerns include security, affordable housing, basic amenities (water, waste), unemployment, education, recycling, green spaces, social mobility/inclusiveness, and citizen engagement. 

Manila is near bottom of rankings of smartest city
Manila is in the near-bottom of the rankings at 121st. Photo from Alexes Gerard from Unsplash

Not everything is bleak, however. The findings noted that the metropolis did well in specific areas: online access to job listings has made it easier to find work; online purchasing of tickets to shows and museums has made it easier to attend events; and businesses are creating new jobs.

Bruno Lanvin, president of the Smart City Observatory, emphasized that cities must design and adopt strategies that can resist the test of a “future plagued with growing uncertainties.”

He noted that, as a whole, “health-related concerns remain high, while climate-related ones grow even larger; a mix complicated by renewed international tensions.”

He added that trust and good governance are growing in importance, and the significance of artificial intelligence (AI) in city design and management is set to increase.

“Counterintuitive as it may sound, AI can help cities to become more human-centric,” he remarked.

Manila traffic not a smart city
Among the concerns raised about Manila include traffic congestion, public transport, air pollution, and corruption/transparency. Photo by Alvin Calbatera from Unsplash

The researchers noted that six cities in the Top 20 have either remained in the same position or have improved: Zurich, Oslo, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Beijing, and Seoul. They call these cities “super champions.”

Meanwhile, the study noted that a different group of six cities “looks likely” to join the super champions in the near future: Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tallinn and Riyadh.

The new lifestyle.