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Ericsson’s latest Networked Society City Index ranked Johannesburg as 29th among 40 key cities in the world in terms of ICT investments in economic, social and environmental development.

One of the key findings from the report is the fact that cities with a low ICT maturity tend to be improving their ICT maturity faster than high performing cities, indicating a catch-up effect. Many cities also have the opportunity to leapfrog others by avoiding expensive and increasingly obsolete physical infrastructure and instead moving straight into innovative applications using advanced mobile technology.

The report has some good news for African cities: ”Lagos and Johannesburg provide very good examples of cities where the populations, in the absence of well-developed fixed infrastructure, use new mobile technologies to enable a connected life, including the use of social networks and mobile payments. These cities have the opportunity to pass others by, for example, choosing not to set up formal banking systems and other expensive physical infrastructures and instead using advanced mobile technologies.

It’s not all good news, as this contrast with supposedly highly-connected Taipei shows: “Taipei is a well-developed digital city, but its ICT usage has not caught up to its rapid high-speed broadband development. Taipei, like many other cities, suffers a digital divide among its residents. Digital divides – between and within cities – also reflect broader socioeconomic and urban development challenges. This problem is even more pronounced in cities like Lagos and Johannesburg, where there remains much to be done to improve inclusion, such as addressing the low ratio of women to men who are connected.

Monika Byl√©hn, Networked Society Evangelist and driver of City Life at Ericsson, explains the importance of ICT in the development of cities: “Today, we are seeing so many new opportunities which are more or less provided by ICT. The way that cities are lead is increasingly built on ICT to provide efficiency and innovation, in basically all areas of a city, from health care to transport to utilities.

Patrik Reg√•rdh, Head of Ericsson’s Networked Society Lab, adds: “Cities will be the major arena in which ICT can bring solutions for economic, social, and sustainable growth. As a leader in ICT development, solutions and implementation, Ericsson is playing a major role in realizing the Networked Society and paving the way for more efficient, effective cities. Besides our reports like the City Index, we are engagingin public-private partnerships to drive progress such as the New Cities Foundation, and collaborate with agencies such as the UN-Habitat-the agency mandated by the United Nations to promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities.

The top five cities (Stockholm, London, Paris, Singapore and Copenhagen) remain the same, though Paris has now surpassed Singapore to take the number three slot. The ninenew cities have been added in this year’s report are Berlin, Munich, Barcelona, Athens, Rome, Warsaw, Muscat, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Among these, Munich enjoys the highest ranking, followed by Berlin and Barcelona.

Also new in this year’s report is the inclusion of three predictions about the urban future derived from new technology and ICT solutions and applications:

· Smart citizens: People rather than institutions will drive urban progress to a larger extent, with more open public services and governance approaches characterizing this power shift.

· GDP redefined: By moving toward a more collaborative and sharing economy, ICT solutions will provide opportunities to create more value from fewer resources, therefore necessitating an adjustment of GDP to mirror the values important for a sustainable society.

¬∑ Power of collaboration: Tomorrow’s networking organizations will be more flexible and efficient thanks to collaboration. Therefore the prevailing conditions of city management will also evolve, requiring changes in legislation and governance.

The Ericsson Networked Society City Index has been developed in close collaboration with Sweco, the sustainable engineering and design group.

In addition to the top-three ranking cities, Stockholm, London and Paris, the following cities are also part of the index: Abu Dhabi, Athens, Barcelona, Beijing, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Cairo, Copenhagen, Delhi, Dhaka, Dubai, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Karachi, Lagos, Los Angeles, Manila, Mexico City, Miami, Moscow, Muscat, Mumbai, Munich, New York, Oslo, Rome, S√£o Paolo, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei, Tokyo and Warsaw.

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