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The 10 Smartest Cities in Asia/Pacific

Methodology & Data Sources
Boyd Cohen
Friday, January 4, 2013 01:00 EST

21 comments
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Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
1/4/2013 10:37:45 AM
User Rank Staff
Smart list
Thanks for a terrific comparison study, Boyd. I am eager to see more cities put to your critera test.

michaelPTotten
michaelPTotten  
1/4/2013 9:18:44 PM
User Rank Village Voice
Re: Smart list Ohh so relative
This is a good exercise as a RELATIVE exercise in "smartness", but having lived the past year in Singapore I would hardly concur with your view that there are "smart" locations in Asia.  Please, set your benchmarks, baselines, level of credibility, higher than business-as-usual, which is where these 10 "top" locations stand.  None are really, truly "smart".  They are, at best, "sensible", not in the "common sense" definition, but in the "alive and resPonding to stimuli" definition.

If you REALLY want Smart, then define the idea to which we should be aspiring: zero net emissions, zero net energy, zero net water, zero net waste, zero net externalities, and near zero virtual energy, water, resource imports.


Then we will have a better sense of how far we are from where we need to be, and how important it is for us to tap into transformational changes, not just incremental improvements that will fail miserably if that is all we do

Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
1/7/2013 9:32:11 AM
User Rank Staff
Re: Smart list Ohh so relative
No doubt we have a long way to go to achieve the ideal. But that shouldn't stop us from praising those cities that are headed in the right direction.

The risk of getting discouraged too soon is that it can hinder incremental progress toward the bigger goals. Some citizens might think, "I can't get there, so why try?"

boydcohen
boydcohen  
1/7/2013 3:34:59 PM
User Rank City Slicker
Re: Smart list
Thanks Mary, per my above comment to another reader, I have actually applied the same approach to ranking EU and North American Cities. Those rankings can be found on Fastco Exist.

Kimberly63
Kimberly63  
1/4/2013 6:57:23 PM
User Rank Village Voice
Great criteria
I love seeing all of these criteria in one place to define a smart city. It helps to get a bigger picture, so we can see where we need to improve! Have you applied these criteria to any north or south American cities?

boydcohen
boydcohen  
1/7/2013 3:33:35 PM
User Rank City Slicker
Re: Great criteria
Thank you for your feedback on the rankings. In fact I have completed rankings of EU and North American cities using the same smart cities wheel framework. They were published in Fast Company's online site which focuses on impact (fastcoexist).  

wbalthrop
wbalthrop  
1/5/2013 5:24:55 PM
User Rank Urban Legend
Smart Cities
Good comparison. I would be intersted in seeing a complete list of the North American cities, in particular, where my home Las Vegas falls in the analysis. Might create incentive to get off our collective back sides and smarten up.

MLChan
MLChan  
1/7/2013 3:21:47 PM
User Rank Village Voice
Methodology
I will be interested in how you combine the rankings of all these five indices into one composite index on which you rank a city.  

p123a
p123a  
1/8/2013 5:27:40 AM
User Rank Village Voice
Consider Wuxi
I think it can be worth to consider Wuxi as a possible candidate for review.

Roger

Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
1/8/2013 4:07:14 PM
User Rank Staff
Re: Consider Wuxi
It does seem that Wuxi has a lot of initiative and much growth. Are you a resident there? Can you tell us a bit about what's happening?

p123a
p123a  
1/9/2013 3:28:21 AM
User Rank Village Voice
Wuxi Green City
Mary,

No, I'm not living there but was on a visit to Wuxi Institute last summer as our company has a joint research and development project with the Institute. I could, due to time reasons, only see a part of Wuxi that has been re- or newly built. Big roads, 3 lanes in each directions and and very little traffic. It looked similar to the US west coast with the exception of the apartment buildings, usually a bunch of about 15 with 20 or so storeys. The only real "green" thing I was presented to was the extremely sophisticated system for waste handling.

I had to Google to find some information in order to answer your questions and found a very interesting article in Washington Post from 2007 about the efforts done by the city. Please see link below.

Roger Sundman

Stockholm, Sweden

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/05/AR2007100502472_3.html

Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
1/9/2013 10:08:34 AM
User Rank Staff
Re: Wuxi Green City
Hmmm.... Kudos to Wuxi for handling the pollution. But it did so only after some unjustified persecution of whistle blowers. And apparently the tactics didn't cut into pollution denial elsewhere in the country. I quote from the link you provided:

Instead of shunning the polluting companies in Wuxi, delegations from other parts of China have been coming to Wuxi to invite them to come to their cities.

Susan Leach
Susan Leach  
1/9/2013 8:26:15 AM
User Rank Blogger
Shouldn't high pollution disqualify you?
Even though Shanghai is forging ahead in its smart-city status, shouldn't its high level of air pollution knock it out of the top 10? I know in recent years the government has been moving the largest polluters on the outskirts of the city to other locales where their toxic exhaust won't effect Shanghai's air quality. But that doesn't solve the problem, it just shifts it somewhere else. Not too smart, no?

 

Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
1/9/2013 10:09:24 AM
User Rank Staff
Re: Shouldn't high pollution disqualify you?
This is a thought, Susan. We laud China's growth but in many of its cities, the environment is being trampled in the process.

Susan Leach
Susan Leach  
1/9/2013 10:23:29 AM
User Rank Blogger
Re: Shouldn't high pollution disqualify you?
I haven't been to Shanghai, but a friend spent a year abroad there recently and called home several times in the first month to say he was having a hard time breathing because the pollution was so bad. That seems pretty fundamental to quality of life.

Shanghai may have made great strides on the technology front and in other smart-city ways -- and that's all to be praised. But rather than address pollution at its core, the city seems to have simply pushed it onto other smaller cities and, according to this report in the International Business Times, the consequences for those regions have been severe. 

 

Hazel
Hazel  
1/14/2013 3:54:28 AM
User Rank Urban Legend
Re: Shouldn't high pollution disqualify you?
Mary, this reminds me of something that a few Chinese business partners said when we met recently. We happened to be driving from a site and passed by a beach resort. Eagerly, they asked if we could stop because they wanted to check out the view and maybe take a dip. They explained that they could no longer do the same in Shanghai because the waters were "black" already--that was what they said. It's pretty sad that moving forward in terms of economy and development, in a way, led to the degradation of their resources.

boydcohen
boydcohen  
1/9/2013 12:28:17 PM
User Rank City Slicker
Re: Shouldn't high pollution disqualify you?
Thank you for the feedback on the rankings. I agree that pollution is a major issue in Shanghai and in many cities around the globe.  Note that in the discussion of Shanghai's ranking I concluded:

"Of course, like many Asian cities, Shanghai faces challenges including growing emission levels (nearly 10 tons of GHG/capita) and air pollution."

What minimum criteria should a city be required to meet in order to be ranked is a challenging question of course.  If we made pollution one of the minimum criteria we'd also have to establish a baseline.  It is certainly possible but that too would be controversial.

However, I would agree that all cities aspiring to become a smart city/future city must address key things like clean energy, public transit, cycling, open data, better use of ICT, etc.  This is of course why I use the Smart Cities Wheel to take a holistic approach to measuring smart cities.

Susan Leach
Susan Leach  
1/9/2013 12:45:22 PM
User Rank Blogger
Re: Shouldn't high pollution disqualify you?
I totally understand your holistic approach to the rankings, Boyd. It makes sense to consider a whole bunch of factors -- smart qualities -- to determine a city's rating. I just wonder if "air quality" shouldn't have a greater weighting than the others because it's so fundamental to quality of life. The thing is, we don't have a choice about breathing. It effects absolutely every facet of existence.

But you rightly raise the question of where to draw the line. Aren't there accepted international air quality standards that could be a good guide? 

Also, it would be interesting to see how Asia's top 10 smart cities compare to Europe's top 10. Are they comparable in levels of "smartness" or are there degrees of differences?

Venks
Venks  
1/13/2013 5:11:46 AM
User Rank Urban Legend
Re: Shouldn't high pollution disqualify you?
Yes Susan, the point you are trying to make is absolutely thoughtful. But, I think Dr. Boyd Cohen, would have come to conclusion on such a list of cities based on years of research and he would have weighed the 'Pollution' factor appropriately.

Also, all the major bigger (now called 'Smarter' Cities) have this problem of Pollution. If you want to grow and be smart then you may have shell out atleast some part of the beauty you have. These are the cons of Urbanisation and I am afraid you may have to live with it.

Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
1/14/2013 9:41:33 AM
User Rank Staff
Re: Shouldn't high pollution disqualify you?
Eventually, I think a city's level of smartness will have to be a function of its real intelligence. For now, though, the holistic approach makes sense.

Mary Jander
Mary Jander  
1/14/2013 12:09:59 PM
User Rank Staff
Some sobering info from China this weekend
Seems that air pollution hit record-breaking highs in Beijing recently.

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