East Asian cities among top 10 safe urban centres: Study

East Asian cities among top 10 safe urban centres: Study

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The Safe Cities Index 2017 is a report from The Economist Intelligence Unit sponsored by NEC. The report is based on the second iteration of the index, which ranks 60 cities across 49 indicators covering digital security, health security, infrastructure security and personal security. The index was devised and constructed by Chris Clague, Stefano Scuratti and Ruth Chiah. The report was written by Sarah Murray and edited by Chris Clague. Findings from the index were supplemented with wide-ranging research and in-depth interviews with experts in the field.In many respects, it’s the very success of cities, in their role as global social and economic hubs, that makes them more vulnerable. As rural residents head for the city in developing countries—which for purposes here we define as non-OECD countries, with the exception of Singapore—and wealthy global capitals draw in international talent, vast demographic shifts are creating cities with previously unimagined population sizes. In 2016, there were 31 megacities—cities with more than 10m inhabitants. This is projected to rise to 41 by 2030.
And size matters. While cities generate economic activity, the security challenges they face expand and intensify as their populations rise. These include growing pressure on housing supply (prompting the spread of slums) and services such as healthcare, transport, and water and power infrastructure.
Man-made risks are also growing. As tragic recent events in European cities such as London, Paris and Barcelona have demonstrated, high profile, wealthy urban centres are becoming targets for terrorist activities. And as income divides widen, growing inequalities can create tensions that contribute to violent outbursts such as the 2011 London riots.
Meanwhile, another major shift has come to the fore: the rapid deployment of digital technologies in pursuit of the so-called “smart city”. The technologies no doubt bring benefits. As part of Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, sensors collect and wirelessly transmit data from physical objects, delivering new insights into city operations and permitting remote and more efficient management of infrastructure and services. Connecting apartments and office buildings to the electricity grid via smart meters, for example, delivers energy efficiency and cost savings.
And with the spread of closed-circuit televisions (CCTVs) and webcams around cities, technologies such as artificial intelligence and data analytics can greatly enhance the capabilities of law enforcement agencies to combat urban crime and terrorism.
Yet the rush to embrace smart city technologies also creates vulnerabilities if investments in digital technologies are not accompanied by commensurate investments in cyber security.
Wealthy cities are making investments, albeit to varying degrees, but security often comes lower on the list of spending priorities for cities with already stretched finances.
The consequences of neglecting cyber security could be dire. For example, if hackers were to shut down the power supply, an entire city would be left in chaos. This prospect is something city officials now need to plan against.
Cities are also defined by the complex, interlinked nature of their systems and infrastructure. This complexity has a bearing on safety. For example, experts are uncovering links between the quality of housing and the health of citizens. And while terrorist attacks are what make headlines, traffic accidents are a greater day-to-day danger for urban residents. Natural forces are also coming in to play as climate change poses new risks to cities, with extreme weather events becoming an even greater threat, as illustrated by the devastation Hurricane Harvey just delivered to Houston, Texas.
The 2017 Safe Cities Index retains the four categories of security from the 2015 version—digital, health, infrastructure and physical.
However, we have added six new indicators and expanded the index to cover 60 cities, up from 50 in 2015.
The index’s key findings include the following:
As in 2015, Tokyo tops the overall ranking. The Japanese capital’s strongest performance is in the digital security category while it has risen seven points in the health security category since 2015. However, in infrastructure security, it has fallen out of the top ten, to 12th.
In many cities, security is falling rather than rising: With two exceptions (Madrid, which is up 13 points and Seoul, up six), cities tend to have fallen in the index since 2015 (for example, New York is down 11, Lima is down 13, Johannesburg is down nine, Ho Chi Minh City is down ten and Jakarta is down 13)
Asian and European cities remain at the top of the index: Of the cities in the top ten positions in the overall index, four are East Asian cities (Tokyo, Singapore, Osaka and Hong Kong), while three (Amsterdam, Stockholm and Zurich) are European.
Asia and the Middle East and Africa dominate the bottom of the index: Dhaka, Yangon and Karachi are at the bottom of the list. Of the ten cities at the bottom of the overall index, three are in South-east Asia (Manila, Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta), two are in South Asia (Dhaka and Karachi) and two are in the Middle East and Africa (Cairo and Tehran).
Security remains closely linked to wealth but the scores of high-income cities are falling: While cities in developed economies dominate the top half of the index (with the lower half dominated by cities in poorer countries), of the 14 cities in high-income countries, the security scores of ten have fallen since 2015.
Income is not the only factor governing city performance on security:
Most of the cities in the top ten of the index are high-income or upper middle-income cities.
However, two high-income cities in the Middle East (Jeddah and Riyadh) fall below position 40 in the index.
America’s failing infrastructure is reflected in its cities’ rankings: No US city makes it into the top ten in this category and only San Francisco appears in the top 20. The top ten cities in this category are either in Europe (Madrid, Barcelona, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Zurich) or Asia-Pacific (Singapore, Wellington, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Sydney).
However, the US performs well in digital security: Of the cities in the top ten in this category, four are North American (Chicago, San Francisco, New York and Dallas).
Source: The Safe Cities Index 2017 – The Economist Intelligence Unit

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