Where Is Your City in the Networked Index?

Two Asian cities topped the recently released Networked Society Index, which ranks countries that aggressively use information and communications technology (ICT) to benefit society. Singapore topped the list, while Seoul was in third place, closely following Stockholm.

The top three countries were leading the charge toward a so-called ‘networked society,’ or a society that maximizes the use of ICT to help meet some of society’s many challenges. Those challenges include commerce and business – the way companies enhance shareholder value will be affected, directly and indirectly, by the infrastructure of the markets where they operate.
Singapore was cited for “aggressively driving innovation in e-health, and for pioneering traffic-congestion management,” while Stockholm was shown “using ICT as a major enabler for research collaboration and knowledge transfer.” Meanwhile, Seoul was recognized for “using ICT to realize green high-tech initiatives.”
Patrik Regardh, Head of Strategic Marketing, Networked Society Lab, Ericsson, said the Networked Society Index is a measurement of the relationship between the amount of ICT investments of the big cities of the world to its social, economic and environmental benefits to society or the so-called triple-bottom-line development.
“One core observation is that there is a strong correlation between the amount of ICT investment and the amount of benefit the city gets from the triple-bottom-line perspective. We hope that this index will trigger a discussion how different cities can learn from each other and how society can get a better payback of the investments they have done in ICT.”
Regardh said Singapore is a good example of a city that has adopted a holistic approach to developing a very strong vision to how the city should develop with ICT as a core element in the implementation.
“One of the examples is the government’s e-health initiative centred on citizens to have electronic medical health records that can speed-up and simplify the healthcare process,” he said. “In Sweden, the government made a good support for people to pick up information technology and it lifts the knowledge and the ability to use information technology among ordinary people to a high degree.”
How did your city do?
The top-10-ranking cities in the 25-member Networked Society City Index are:
1. Singapore
2. Stockholm
3. Seoul
4. London
5. Paris
6. New York
7. Tokyo
8. Los Angeles
9. Shanghai
10. Beijing
The report said high-scoring cities such as Singapore, Stockholm, Seoul, London and Paris can “gain traction by exploiting ICT to fulfil the overall city vision and capitalize on ICT to spur innovation and citizen involvement in city development.”
Meanwhile, medium-scoring cities such as Beijing, Sydney, Moscow, Buenos Aires and São Paulo ought to “cherry-pick key city challenges that can be addressed with ICT-based solutions, and launch and coordinate focused initiatives.”
On the other hand, low-scoring cities such as Manila (19th place), Johannesburg (22nd), Dhaka (23rd), Karachi (24th) and Lagos (25th) can make progress by “addressing the digital gap through digital access initiatives, ICT literacy training for the underprivileged, and ensuring the integration of ICT into public administration to improve efficiency.”
The list of 25 cities used for the index is based on the United Nations’ list of the largest cities, with the addition of the capitals of the two leading nations in the Networked Readiness Index, published by the World Economic Forum. There were cities, however, that were excluded from the list because of lack of available data.
“City mayors, local authorities and decision makers can use the framework to meet the growing urbanization trend and enable organizational and societal success,” Ericsson said.
Challenges for cities
In a recently published report by the Mckinsey Global Institute (MGI) entitled “Urban world: Mapping the economic power of cities,” it was shown that 1.5 billion people live in the top 600 cities of the world, or 22 percent of the global population. However, by 2025 these 600 cities are expected to house 2 billion people, or 25 percent of the global population.
“In 2025, we still expect 600 cities to account for about 60 percent of worldwide GDP—but the cities won’t be the same. The earth’s urban landscape appears to be stable, but its centre of gravity is shifting decisively, and at speed,” the report said.
The report emphasized that “the growth and prosperity of cities critically depend on the way the evolving challenges of cities are managed. Policy makers who anticipate urban trends will not only be better prepared to respond to the increasing complexity of larger cities but can use effective planning and management to help boost the growth prospects of their urban regions.”
The Ericsson Networked Society Index report affirmed that this urbanization trend means the power of the city is increasing. The use of ICT as mapped out in the index is spread out in many geographic areas. However, it said that cities in Northern Europe, North America and parts of East Asia have a longer tradition of producing and using ICT and have benefited from their investments for longer periods.
Drivers of change
Other countries are, however, catching up and at least three factors were identified as driving innovation:
High-level government involvement. The Ericsson study showed Singapore leading the way in Asia with “high ICT maturity” and “extraordinary ICT leverage” and part of the explanation offered is the high level of governmental involvement in using ICT as an enabler for city development.
“In 2006, Singapore’s Infocomm Development Authority established a holistic strategy to attract foreign investment and sustain long-term GDP growth through the ICT industry, called the iN2015 plan. The strategy aims to build Singapore into an intelligent nation and a global city powered by ICT though infrastructure development, industrial and telecommunications sector development, and knowledge creation,” the report cited.
However, this type of government initiative was also seen in slightly lesser scopes in other cities such as Istanbul, which has crafted its own digital city vision; in São Paulo, Brazil, which has received awards for using ICT in public administration, notably its electronic invoice (NF-e) document which replaced traditional invoices in government transactions and its Electronic Licensing System that helped reduce the complexity for setting up businesses in the country.
Fostering innovation through ICT. ICT-driven initiatives within the city of Paris, the report said, reveals diversified usage areas and a structured approach to using ICT to foster innovations.
“An interesting and potentially trendsetting initiative is the ongoing creation of the first citywide car-sharing program for electric vehicles, which will go live at the end of 2011. The initiative could be the start of a new era of public transport solutions with ICT as a major enabler,” the report cited.
The municipality was also said to be collaborating with Paris Innovation Labs on the development of high-tech urban outdoor furniture.
ICT education is important. The curious case of Manila was presented in the report as the “world’s most active SMS/text-messaging city” but was identified in the lower range of the ICT development scale.
“The Philippine Commission on Information & Communications Technology (CICT) has had an important role in creating nationwide initiatives to support ICT development in the Philippines,” the report said, citing the establishment of the cyberservices corridor for attracting foreign investors.
The report however concluded that ensuring that future workforce are equipped with ICT knowledge is essential for sustaining its vision of serving as a hub for business-process outsourcing, voice services and software development.
About the Author
Eden Estopace is Senior Editor at Enterprise Innovation, a sister site of CFO Innovation.

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