Why is Zurich rated as the smartest city in the world?

Why is Zurich rated as the smartest city in the world?

The latest city index by IMD has rated Zurich as the smartest in the world for 2024. Here’s why the Swiss metropolis was rated the cleverest on earth.

Smart City Index by IMD

Sadly, for those hoping the results mean that the residents of the largest city in Switzerland have the highest IQs on earth, the Smart City Index actually looks at how clever cities are at maintaining and improving the quality of life for residents and the strength of their economies. To do this, researchers looked at official data from 142 cities around the world, as well as a survey of 20.000 of their residents, to find out which are best in the following categories:

  • Health and Safety: Sanitation, recycling, public safety, air pollution, healthcare services, rental costs
  • Mobility: Traffic and public transport
  • Activities: Green spaces, cultural activities
  • Opportunities: Quality of schools and higher education, how easy it is to find a job, how welcoming a city is for minorities
  • Governance: Accessibility of government services, corruption, democratic rights

Cities were given a score in every section, alongside a rating on whether technology and innovation was being used effectively in each category. Each city was then given a score ranging from AAA to D. 

Why is a smart city ranking useful?

IMD noted that how “clever” a city is is extremely important when attracting new talent and investment. For example, IMD noted that strong connections to the internet are key in attracting both new workers and firms to a location. 

Writing in the report last year, expert Bruno Lanvin noted that “for most citizens, however, the importance of the smart city would be indirect. Their location choices would be guided more by services such as health and education, as well as quality of life.”

For the future, Lanvin wrote in the 2024 report that “cities must design and adopt strategies that can resist the test of a future plagued with growing uncertainties,” he continued. “Health concerns remain important, while climate concerns are growing even more significant. A mix complicated by new international tensions.” 

Smartest cities are in Europe and Asia

For 2024, the study noted that the world’s smartest cities are in Europe and Asia. IMD noted that high quality of life continues to keep European cities at the top of the ranking, while Asian cities have made huge progress in recent years.

By contrast, the IMD noted that cities in North America have regressed in 2024, mainly due “to the dissatisfaction of their residents.” “Last year, most US cities rose in the Index but this year they have fallen…In contrast, this year elections are on the horizon, making people more critical about areas that need to be improved,” Lanvin noted. For the first time in the ranking’s history, no North American city placed in the top 20.

Zurich named the smartest city in the world

In 2024, it was Zurich that was named as the smartest city in the world for the fifth year running, with a total score of AAA. This included an AAA rating for the physical infrastructure in the city itself and an AA score for how the city uses tech to improve residents’ lives.

Zurich’s chart-topping score was aided by high scores for health and safety, opportunities, activities and governance. However, it did faulter in some areas, such as traffic and affordable housing availability. It also stumbled when it came to some technological factors such as the effectiveness of car sharing on traffic jams, the ease of starting a new business online and whether online government transparency has reduced corruption.

Affordable housing should be Zurich's first priority, report finds

Looking ahead, the survey found that access to affordable housing is the biggest priority for most people in Zurich, followed by reducing road congestion and air pollution. By contrast, improving education and fighting corruption were the two lowest priorities.

Oslo and Canberra rounded out the podium places this year, with Geneva seeing the biggest improvement in the top 10, going from ninth in 2023 to fourth in 2024. By contrast, the city of Lausanne saw its rating drop this year, falling behind Singapore and Copenhagen to place seventh.

Smartest cities in the world in 2024

In all, here are the smartest cities in the world in 2024:

  1. Zurich, Switzerland
  2. Oslo, Norway
  3. Canberra, Australia
  4. Geneva, Switzerland
  5. Singapore
  6. Copenhagen, Denmark
  7. Lausanne, Switzerland
  8. London, United Kingdom
  9. Helsinki, Finland
  10. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

For more information about the study, including more detailed information on the methodology, check out the IMD website.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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