Smart cities ranking: an effective instrument for the positioning of cities?


  • Rudolf Giffinger
  • Gudrun Haindl



Because of radical economic and technological changes cities are facing growing competition for investors, tourists, qualified labour or international events over the last decades (see Begg 1999). As a consequence city rankings have experienced a remarkable boom: On the one hand the comparison of cities can support investors in their choice of location, on the other hand it can be an important guide for the cities to judge their strengths and weaknesses and to define their goals and strategies for future development and better positioning in the urban system. However, there is some evidence that the discussion of city rankings is mainly concentrated on the final ranks totally neglecting (1) the methods and indicators used (see Schönert 2003) resp. (2) its purpose and effectiveness for strategic planning aiming at the strengthening of the position to be gained. In front of this development, this paper concentrates first on the question what are the basic characteristics of national and international city rankings. Correspondingly, a selected number of city rankings are analyzed in order to identify different types of such rankings. Thereby, the number and features of the indicators used in these rankings as well as their methods of sequencing is described systematically. The sample of indicators and the complexity of the ranking approach itself constitute the base for a quality assessment of city rankings discussed within this paper. In particular, an own ranking approach ("European Smart Cities") is described. In the second part, the paper concentrates on the question how cities cope with the results and what are typical reactions of local governments and stakeholders. For providing insight into the way cities respond, it is described how they try to make use of their results to city rankings respectively how they reflect on the strengths and weaknesses revealed in the study. In this context different urban strategies for steering development and processes of learning in general, but especially with respect to urban planning and marketing, are discussed within this paper. Answering these questions the paper concludes in proposals for making city rankings a more significant and effective instrument for steering economic, social and spatial processes in cities: recommendations for researchers and analysts dealing with the design and methodology of city rankings on the one hand and for local governments and stakeholders concerning the reasonable handling of results on the other hand are formulated.