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Portrait of Thilo Zelt
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Integrated thinking and central coordination are key to successful Smart City strategies

"Many cities lack a central unit with the right expertise to coordinate and drive the Smart City project."
Portrait of Thilo Zelt
Berlin Office, Central Europe

The Austrian capital Vienna again tops the Smart City Index, Roland Berger's analysis of 153 cities around the world. Second in the ranking is another European city, London. On average, however, it's mainly Asian metropolises that demonstrate the most compelling Smart City strategies. Remarkably, 90 percent of the analyzed cities still do not have an integrated strategy. There is also a lot of work to do on implementation. Successful Smart Cities implement their strategy with the help of a central decision-making entity and pilot projects.

Growing populations and increasing challenges such as traffic congestion, air pollution and insufficient infrastructure have seen cities the world over turn to digital technologies to solve their problems. But it's only when these solutions are interconnected and aligned in the form of a Smart City strategy that the individual measures can unfold their full potential. An e-mobility strategy, for example, should always be integrated into intelligent traffic management systems and powered via smart electricity grids. So an integrated strategy that is planned and managed centrally is crucial.

Urban mobility is a key element in a Smart City strategy, alongside health, education, public administration and efficient energy use.
Urban mobility is a key element in a Smart City strategy, alongside health, education, public administration and efficient energy use.

What is so compelling about Vienna's performance is not just the fact that it has integrated solutions for mobility and the environment, an advanced e-health approach and – a first in the German-speaking world – open government data. It has also introduced a standardized monitoring system for all of its Smart City projects. Everything is coordinated by the central Smart City Agency, a unit that pools technical expertise and promotes links between the city administration, research, business and industry.

More cities have an explicit Smart City strategy but implementation is problematic for many

The analysis highlights the importance of central coordination. While the number of urban centers with a Smart City strategy has almost doubled since the first Smart City Index in 2017, rising from 87 back then to 153 this year, the cities still have a lot of work to do on implementation. For the most part, the reasons for this lie not in the strategies themselves but in the fact that responsibilities are unclear and there is no single entity in charge of coordinating all of the different groupings involved.

Conversely, cities that do have a central decision-making body, like Vienna with its Smart City Agency or London with its Chief Digital Officer, perform well on implementation and lead the rankings as a result. It is also evident that the legal framework is a key to the success of a Smart City strategy. This aspect is mostly concerned with data protection, and here national governments need to implement the right regulations to ensure that cities have permission to use the data they gather and that the data remains secure at all times.

The range of Smart City concepts within the metropolises analyzed is extremely varied. In London, for example, lamp posts and benches are not only equipped with functions like air quality sensors, they also serve as public wi-fi hotspots and electric vehicle charging points. Singapore is piloting a National Digital Identity scheme and is also installing smart lighting, autonomous shuttles and telemedicine solutions. Indeed, the wide-ranging nature of Smart City use cases serves a city well. The key is to think integrated, stay connected and be smart when it comes to planning and implementation.

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Smart City Strategy Index: Vienna and London leading in worldwide ranking


In the 2nd Smart City Index, cities that have central decision-making bodies like Vienna's Smart City Agency and London's Chief Digital Officer lead the field.

Published March 2019. Available in
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