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A new global report ranks three Swiss cities among the world’s ‘smartest.’ What exactly does this mean?

Choosing the ‘smartest’ city in the world is not an easy task, but a new study has done just that.

And its findings show not only that Zurich took the number 1 spot, but also that Geneva and Lausanne are among the top 10 (in the 4th and 7th place, respectively) — an impressive result, considering that 142 cities were ranked.

What is this ranking?

The 2024 Smart Cities Index (SCI) is produced by the Smart Cities Observatory – part of the IMD's Global Competitiveness Center – in partnership with the World Organization for Smart and Sustainable Cities (WeGO).

Researchers combined real-world data and survey responses from residents of 142 cities around the world to show how technology allows cities to improve the quality of life of their population.

However, as the study’s authors point out, it is not just (or strictly) about the cities’ technological aspects per se.

The survey’s “balanced focus’" was also on “humane dimensions” of smart cities.

They include the overall quality of life, infrastructure, environment, health and safety, public transport, services available to the population, as well as governance.

The ‘winners’ — cities that ranked the highest — are all “located in areas where social and economic environments are relatively predictable, even against the overall climate of global uncertainties,” the report states.

“They are also cities in which visible initiatives have been taken to facilitate the lives of citizens (e.g., by developing public transportation networks or eco-compatible mobilities), and to improve the overall ‘quality of life’.”

The ranking ranges from ‘AAA’ for 'smartest’ cities to 'D' — the lowest.

Interestingly, included in the survey are not only the best aspects of each city, but also the areas that its residents have designated as ‘priorities’ — that is, the ones that need improvement.

  • Let’s look at Zurich first

    (Smart City AAA rating)

    The last time Switzerland’s largest city ranked first in an international survey was in November 2023, when it ‘won’ the unenviable title as the word’s most expensive city.

    This time, however, it can bask in its title as the world’s ‘smartest’ city, beating out 141 contenders on all continents.

    That’s quite a feat, though, like in other places, some aspects of life in Zurich leave room for improvement.

    Among them are, not surprisingly, affordable housing, seen as a priority by 76 percent of local residents.

    Next is the road congestion (59 percent).

    These two ‘downsides’ are the same as cited by residents of Geneva and Lausanne (see below), which means housing and traffic woes are common to all large cities in Switzerland.

    On the positive side, Zurich got thumbs up on basic amenities, school system, recycling, citizen engagement, public transport, and health services.

  • What about Geneva?

    (Smart City AAA rating)

    Here, 74 percent of residents pointed to affordable housing as the main challenge, followed by road congestion (52 percent).

    That is not at all surprising, as Geneva has been dealing with traffic jams for many years, and is rated as the worst city in Switzerland (and 75th in the world) in terms of bottlenecks.

    However, most survey participants are satisfied with the city’s amenities, employment opportunities, public transport, health services, and schools.

    So much so, in fact, that Geneva’s ranking has climbed from the 8th place in 2020 to the 4th this year.

  • Last but not least, Lausanne

    (Smart City AA rating)

    Like its neighbour Geneva, the Vaud capital, a popular destination for international residents and companies alike, also excels (in its residents’ view) in basic amenities, education, health services, and public transportation.

    But here too, affordable housing and road congestion are seen as problem areas by 81 and 58 percent of the population, respectively.

    (While this has nothing to do with being 'smart,' it is worth mentioning that in an earlier survey, Lausanne has won a crown of its own: as the world's best small city).

Some similarities, but differences too

It is quite striking how the ‘pluses’ and ‘minuses’ of each of the three cities (at least, according to this particular survey) are similar.

It is true that major Swiss cities are alike in terms of services they offer and their infrastructure, as well as the downsides like expensive housing.

But if you are a resident, you will see that each one is different and distinct in more ways than one.

So what makes Zurich 'smarter' than Geneva and Lausanne?

This is down to details, really.

If we look at specifics, Zurich is doing slightly better than Geneva in categories like public transport, unemployment rate, security, recycling, green spaces, education, and basic amenities.

In comparison with Lausanne, Zurich's scores are also higher across most of these categories, though here too the differences are minimal.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Helena Bachmann

Quelle/Source: The Local, 09.04.2024

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