The 10 Smartest Cities In The World

Economy, sustainability, technology, and urban planning. Where do the world’s cities rank on these and other important metrics?

We all have our favorite cities, and our subjective reasons for choosing them. They make us happy, keep us entertained, look beautiful at night. Whatever it is. The Cities In Motion Index doesn’t care about that. It has objective data: 50 sets of it in all, covering every facet of urban life, from the economy and governance to technology and urban planning.


The result is that some perpetually favorite places–Rome and Istanbul for instance–don’t fare so well (Rome is 54th out of 135) in a ranking of “smartness,” a catch-all phrase for a well-operated city that is pleasant to live in. They look like middle-rankers compared to the top three cities: Tokyo, London, and New York. Buenos Aires (106th place) sounds pretty bad when you think about the 105 cities ranked above it, while Dallas (13th) looks set for the future.

New York via Shutterstock

The ranking is put together by IESE Business School, in Spain, and gives a sense of cities’ sustainability, in the broadest sense. It assesses technology by measures like broadband penetration; environmental performance by particle emissions; and “international outreach” by the numbers of visitors by airplane. As such, it’s one of the most comprehensive index of cities to date. While others look at “livability,” it attempts to include more or less everything.

No city is perfect. Even the top cities have major drawbacks. Half the top-10 score poorly for “social cohesion,” for example. Tokyo comes in 125th for that. London is 96th, and New York is 110th (and 37th for the environment). Paris, which is fifth overall, has a ranking of 87th for public administration (proving that cities can rise above their governments).

Paris via Shutterstock

For more info, see the full report, or check out the infographic that accompanies it. It plots cities by whether they are “high potential” (like Shanghai and Guangzhou), “challengers” (like Toronto, which has made rapid improvements), “vulnerable” (like Athens, which is getting worse, not better), and “consolidated” (which have reached a high ranking already).

A ranking like this is bound to annoy everyone. But it does bring a lot of comparative data together, and it does show where cities can improve, which can’t really be a bad thing in the end.


About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.