Abu Dhabi still Mena's smartest city as digital transformation continues

UAE capital is ranked 13th globally, with Dubai at 17th, the Institute for Management Development's Smart City Index shows

Driverless vehicles helped Abu Dhabi to cement its status as the smartest city in the Middle East and North Africa region. Leslie Pableo / The National
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Abu Dhabi has retained its title as the smartest city in the Middle East and North Africa thanks to its digital-first initiatives, a study has revealed.

The UAE capital came in 13th globally, according to Switzerland's International Institute for Management Development's (IMD) Smart City Index for 2023.

Abu Dhabi is Mena's smartest city for three studies from 2020. IMD did not release an index in 2022.

Dubai, ranked first in Mena when the index appeared in 2019, was ranked 17th for 2023, down from 14th.

That made the UAE one of only four countries to have more than one city in the top 20, joining Switzerland, Australia and Germany, according to the study conducted in collaboration with the Singapore University of Technology and Design.

Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh came in 30th, up from 39th. Saudi cities Makkah, Jeddah and Qatar's capital Doha were ranked 52nd, 56th and 59th, respectively, and were all new to the index this year.

The Swiss city of Zurich retained the top ranking — a position it has held since 2019 except for 2022. Oslo in Norway came in second, also maintaining its position since the index began.

Australia's capital, Canberra, made its index debut at third place. Rounding out the top 10 are Copenhagen, Lausanne, London, Singapore, Helsinki, Geneva and Stockholm in a top tier largely dominated by European cities.

Abu Dhabi's emergence as the regional leader comes following initiatives focused on technologies that include artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, and the development of smart city initiatives across society, services and the economy, Mohammed Al Shorafa, chairman of the emirate's Department of Municipalities and Transport, said in a statement.

“Abu Dhabi's leadership in this field is a translation of the leadership's vision and commitment to supporting digital transformation journey and utilising it to serve the community and enhance its well-being and quality of life,” he said.

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

Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are “well positioned” to be at the forefront of becoming full-fledged smart cities, with several initiatives being tabled to help the transition to a digital economy, Thierry Lestable, executive director of the AI and Digital Science Research Centre at Abu Dhabi's Technology Innovation Institute, had previously told The National.

Abu Dhabi's leadership in this field is a translation of the leadership's vision and commitment to supporting the digital transformation journey
Mohammed Al Shorafa, chairman of Abu Dhabi's Department of Municipalities and Transport

Both emirates, and the UAE in general, are promoting the use of smart technologies to accelerate their agenda of becoming knowledge-based economies.

“We are working diligently to harness technology and use it to enhance the quality of life for citizens and residents,” Mr Al Shorafa said.

The IMD's Smart City Index assesses economic and technological aspects of smart cities, as well as factors like quality of life, environment and inclusiveness.

It gathers a mixture of hard data and survey responses to gauge the smartness of cities, with an emphasis on how inhabitants see the city.

IMD said the methodology was improved for 2023.

Updated: May 01, 2023, 12:57 PM