Abu Dhabi ranked among the world's top 10 smartest cities

Dubai climbs to 12th in IMD's global ranking of 124 cities

Abu Dhabi is trialling driverless taxis in the emirate, an example of its 'smart city' approach. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
Powered by automated translation

Abu Dhabi has broken into the world's top 10 smartest cities in a new ranking as the emirate continues with its digital transformation agenda.

The UAE capital climbed three places from last year to 10th in the Smart City Index 2024 compiled by Switzerland's International Institute for Management Development (IMD), which was released on Tuesday.

Dubai also rose in the ranking of 142 cities, rising from 17th last year to 12th.

Riyadh climbed five places to 25th, while Makkah and Jeddah came 52nd and 55th, respectively. Doha rose 11 places to 59th while Muscat was 88th.

The list is based on assessments of economic and technological aspects of smart cities, as well as factors such as quality of life, environment and inclusion.

It assesses the perceptions of residents on issues related to structures and technology applications available to them in their city. Each score is computed by referring to the past three years of the survey.

"Cities must design and adopt strategies that can resist the test of a future plagued with growing uncertainties,” said Bruno Lanvin, president of the Smart City Observatory, part of IMD.

“Health-related concerns remain high, while climate-related ones grow even larger, a mix complicated by renewed international tensions. Trust and good governance are growing in importance, and the significance of [artificial intelligence] in city design and management is set to increase. Counterintuitive as it may sound, AI can help cities to become more humancentric.”

Smart city plans

A smart city uses the latest information and communications technology to connect people and devices, improve operational efficiency and boost economic activity.

Abu Dhabi ranked high for safety (87.4 per cent), culture and leisure (88.7 per cent), public transport (83.8 per cent), green spaces (84.7 per cent) and medical services (86.3 per cent), the report found. Dubai also ranked strongly for safety (88.5 per cent), medical services (82.2 per cent) and public transport (79.7 per cent).

Behind the wheels of WeRide’s self-driving car in Abu Dhabi

Behind the wheels of WeRide’s self-driving car in Abu Dhabi

The UAE cities have made significant strides with their smart city plans as they use technology to accelerate their strategies of becoming knowledge-based economies.

In February, Abu Dhabi and Shenzhen signed a twin city agreement to share knowledge and collaborate on smart city projects across several areas including infrastructure, city planning, green mobility, transport, advanced technology, autonomous solutions, sustainability and urban development.

Abu Dhabi-based Bayanat, an AI-powered geospatial data products and services provider, said in August it was working on boosting its capabilities to ensure the emirate was “first in the world” when it comes to smart city infrastructure.

Singapore-based companies are also collaborating with Abu Dhabi groups including Adnoc, the Department of Municipalities and Transport, and Masdar City to develop smart city pilot projects in the emirate.

These include transforming street lighting as well as increasing the energy efficiency of Al Dannah City buildings, Abu Dhabi Investment Office announced last year.

Meanwhile, in Dubai, the Roads and Transport Authority unveiled its Digital Strategy 2023-2030 in December, which involves 82 projects aimed at scaling up its smart city plans.

This involves "enabling 100 per cent FinTech-driven mobility, increasing digital service adoption to 95 per cent, digitising the skill set of RTA’s employees to as much as 100 per cent, and developing 50 artificial intelligence use cases”, the RTA said at the time.

Top 10 smartest cities globally

In a top 10 largely dominated by Europe, the Swiss city of Zurich retained top spot – a position it has held since 2019 (except for 2022, when the ranking was not released).

Oslo in Norway came in second, also maintaining its position since the index began, while Australia's capital, Canberra, retained third place.

Geneva, Singapore, Copenhagen, Lausanne, London and Helsinki rounded off the top 10.

The report said Abu Dhabi, Zurich, Oslo, Singapore, Beijing and Seoul have been the most consistently high-performing cities in the top 20 since the index began.

"Cities in the top 20 are geographically located in areas where social and economic environments are relatively predictable, even against the overall climate of global uncertainties," the report said.

"They are also cities in which visible initiatives have been taken to facilitate the lives of citizens and to improve the overall ‘quality of life’ associated with their respective names."

Updated: April 09, 2024, 12:48 PM