London remains one of the most connected cities in the world, second only to Swedish capital Stockholm, according to the latest edition of Ericsson’s Networked Society Index – but it may be in danger of losing its place near the top of the rankings.
The latest report indicated an imminent surge in less ICT-mature cities overtaking the (largely Western) cities at the top of the table. This is because – unencumbered by legacy network infrastructure – they could move straight to advanced mobile technology and more innovative applications.
Such contenders include Lagos and Johannesburg, where the absence of fixed infrastructure means people are more inclined to use new mobile technologies, adopting mobile payments and banking more readily, for example. Although both cities suffer from a deep digital divide, they might soon overtake others at the top of the table.
“Today, we are seeing so many new opportunities provided by ICT. Cities are increasingly built on ICT to provide efficiency and innovation, in all areas – from healthcare to transport to utilities,” said Ericsson’s Monika Byléhn, networked society evangelist and driver of city life.
After Stockholm, London and Paris, the rest of the top 10 comprise Singapore, Copenhagen, Helsinki, New York, Oslo, Hong Kong and Tokyo. New entrants to this year’s index were Berlin, Munich, Barcelona, Athens, Rome, Warsaw, Muscat, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
The report ranks 40 cities in order of their ICT maturity, based on how effectively they use ICT investments in economic, social and environmental development. How a city strikes a balance between these three factors is the most important influence on its position on the table, said Ericsson.
In London’s case, the city registered very high ICT usage compared to others, with well-developed open data and e-services, said Ericsson. Penetration rates among Londoners were also high.
However, London lost out to Stockholm because the Swedes performed better in access to and quality of fixed and mobile broadband. Stockholm’s climate and environmental footprint was better, compared to economic performance.
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Ericsson’s researchers made several other key predictions about the future development of smart cities – around the growth of smart citizens, a redefinition of gross domestic product (GDP) and the power of collaboration.
Ericsson believes the advent of more open public services and citizen access to government means city dwellers – as opposed to institutions – will drive urban progress.
In terms of GDP, it predicted the move to a more collaborative, sharing economy meant ICT systems could create more value from fewer resources, requiring statistical adjustments to reflect the values appropriate for this type of society.
It also looked forward to a future when networking organisations are more flexible and efficient, enabling the prevailing conditions of city management to evolve.