China leads world in building smart megacities, says IMD expert

As a leader in building large-scale smart cities, China can promote its practices around the world to improve human settlements.

As a leader in building large-scale smart cities, China can promote its practices around the world to improve human settlements, Arturo Bris, director of the world-renowned IMD World Competitiveness Center has said.

Bris made the remarks during a recent interview with Xinhua on the sidelines of the World Governments Summit being held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, from February 12-14, an event that helps countries develop proactive solutions for future challenges.

"Most of the top cities in our ranking, for example, Zurich, are small," he said, speaking of the Smart City Index published yearly by IMD, the International Institute for Management Development, a business school headquartered in Switzerland.

"What China needs to show is how megacities with a population of more than 8 million manage to be smart. That's extremely difficult, but China is succeeding with that," Bris, also a professor of finance at the IMD, noted.

In last year's ranking, Zurich took the lead with Oslo coming in second and Canberra third. Beijing ranked 12th while Hong Kong took 19th place.

Out of the top 20, six cities have been continuously improving their performance since 2019. These so-called "super-champions" in the Index's report are Zurich, Oslo, Singapore, Beijing, Seoul and Hong Kong.

The Index looked into city living in 141 cities, casting its net much wider than in 2021 when the total was 118.

"It is not a surprise to anybody that Chinese cities, especially in the east, have made amazing progress in technology," Bris said.

"Through technology, the quality of life of citizens has improved and that's why you see Beijing and Hong Kong rank so much higher than in the previous ranking," he explained.

IMD said its index offers a balanced focus on economic and technological aspects of smart cities, and on the other hand, "humane dimensions" of smart cities, namely quality of life, environment, and inclusiveness since 2019.

The report, produced by The Smart City Observatory, part of the IMD World Competitiveness Center, combines hard data and survey responses to show the extent to which technology is enabling cities to address the challenges they face to achieve a higher quality of life for their inhabitants.

"What we have seen in China is economic development recovery, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic," Bris continued. "Economic development is key in a city ranking as it's a prerequisite for a city to be smart."

"I think the outlook looks much better for Asia in general, for Chinese cities in particular," he noted.

"We are going to see how they move from the 50th or 60th to the top 50 in the coming years," Bris added.

IMD is a renowned business school with campuses in Lausanne, Switzerland, and Singapore. Recently it also has an in-country team in Shenzhen, China.

It is about to release the new Smart City Index 2024 on April 9.

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