Standout cities? New rankings identify most innovative, most efficient, world's safest

Wed, 2015-05-27 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

Smart cities are safe, they're energy efficient and they're innovative – and new rankings highlight cities leading the pack in each of those categories. Scroll down for details.

Most innovative city
A.T. Kearney, a global management consulting firm, released its 2015 Global Cities Index and Global Cities Outlook. The Index ranks 125 cities according to 27 metrics across five dimensions, including business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience and political engagement. The outlook, meanwhile, ranks 125 cities and ranks 13 leading indicators across four dimensions – personal well-being, economics, innovation and governance. New York and London are the only cities that ranked in the top 10 of the Index and the Outlook.

Due to its strength in innovation, the Global Cities Outlook puts San Francisco in the No. 1 spot, followed in order by London, Boston, New York and Zurich.

The 'Global Elite'
With the Global Cities Index, Mike Hales, A.T. Kearney partner and study co-leader, explains: "We have identified 16 cities that are ranked in the top 25 of the GCI, indicating superior current performance, and in the top 25 of the GCO, indicating future potential. We call these cities the 'Global Elite.' Beyond New York and London the Global Elite includes Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco, Boston, Paris, Brussels, Berlin, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul, Sydney and Melbourne."

Notes Andres Mendoza-Pena, A.T. Kearney principal and study co-author:  "In reviewing the 16 cities that make up the Global Elite, all of these cities are from advanced economies. Cities in advanced economies enjoy a significant lead on innovation, which may become tomorrow's key differentiator for global cities."

Most energy efficient cities
The second biennial City Energy Efficiency Scorecard from the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a Council Advisor, measures the progress of city policies and programs that save energy while benefiting the environment and promoting economic growth

The scorecard ranks 51 large U.S. cities for energy efficiency across five policy areas:

  • Local government operations
  • Community-wide initiatives
  • Buildings
  • Energy and water utilities
  • Transportation

The ACEEE report also gives examples of best practices in those five areas.

Boston again topped the list of energy efficient cities. The top 5 include:

  1. Boston
  2. New York City
  3. Washington, D.C.
  4. San Francisco
  5. Seattle

"Overall," suggests ACEEE, "we found that cities are still laboratories of innovation, pushing the envelope to reduce energy waste."

World's safest cities
As The Guardian points out in an article on the 2015 Safe Cities Index released by the Economist's Intelligence Unit, there's more to urban safety than avoiding muggings – things like sanitation, immigration and even air-traffic control also figure in.

The aim of the Safe Cities Index, The Economist notes, is to capture the complexity in addressing the wide and evolving range of risks involved in public safety. The annual index tracks the relative safety of a city across four categories: digital security, health security, infrastructure safety and personal safety.

Here are a few key findings from the Executive Summary:

  • Tokyo tops the overall ranking. The world’s most populous city is also the safest in the Index. The Japanese capital performs most strongly in the digital security category, three points ahead of Singapore in second place. Meanwhile, Jakarta is at the bottom of the list of 50 cities in the Index. The Indonesian capital only rises out of the bottom five places in the health security category.
  • Safety is closely linked to wealth and economic development. Unsurprisingly, a division emerges in the Index between cities in developed markets, which tend to fall into the top half of the overall list, and cities in developing markets, which appear in the bottom half.  Significant gaps in safety exist along these lines within regions. Rich Asian cities (Tokyo, Singapore and Osaka) occupy the top three positions in the Index, while poorer neighbors (Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta) fill two of the bottom three positions.
  • Technology is now on the frontline of urban safety, alongside people. Data are being used to tackle crime, monitor infrastructure and limit the spread of disease. As some cities pursue smarter methods of preventing -- rather than simply reacting to -- these diverse security threats, a lack of data in emerging markets could exacerbate the urban safety divide between rich and poor. Nonetheless, investment in traditional safety methods, such as bolstering police visibility, continues to deliver positive results from Spain to South Africa.

Unsure about city rankings?
A recent report from the Chicago Council of Global Affairs points out that the world is awash in organizations ranking cities on a laundry list of characteristics using a mixed bag of methodologies to create their indexes. Beyond the Scorecard: Understanding the Global City Rankings makes specific recommendations on how city leaders can find value in them.

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