Research Design

Research Design and Methodology

The Swiss Smart City Survey (SSCS) is a regular survey that aims to shed light on the status of development and trends as well as the needs of cities and municipalities in Switzerland in their transformation to smart sustainable cities & communities as well as in the implementation of smart city solutions. The survey was designed in such a way that it can be repeated regularly (planned every two years). By repeating the survey periodically, it should be possible to follow developments and trends in the smart city field over a longer period of time and to record changes over time. The survey has been standardized and contains open and closed questions. The survey is conducted online, so that the highest possible intertemporal comparability can be ensured.
Only cities/municipalities that filled out at least half of the questionnaire were included in the analyses. Of 171 invited cities/municipalities, 84 (49%) took part in the first survey in 2020.

Defining Comparison Groups

As a basis, the categorizations of the cities according to the Federal Statistical Office (BFS) were used and paired with the information provided by the municipalities that filled out the survey. In a comparison group, there must be at least n=4 cities/municipalities that filled out the survey completely in order to preserve the anonymity of the cities/municipalities. If there are fewer, this comparison group was paired with the next size category.

Smart City Index

In order to better represent the different aspects of a smart city as well as developments over time, a smart city index was developed specifically for Switzerland. Based on the Smart City Wheel and the architecture of the Smart City Hub Switzerland, eight dimensions of a smart city were defined. The index is supplemented by a ninth dimension, which takes the organizational and structural elements within the city administration into account. In total, the index consists of the following nine dimensions:

  • Smart Mobility: Creating clean mobility and logistics, promoting efficient means of transport, intermodality and sharing concepts.
  • Smart Environment: Resource- and environmentally friendly development of the urban environment (buildings, public spaces, infrastructure systems), promotion of renewable energies and use of synergies.
  • Smart Economy: Establishment of an innovative, resource-saving and open economic system that relies on networking, cooperation, circular economy and flexible working models.
  • Smart People: Use and promotion of resources of the inhabitants as well as ensuring lifelong learning, participation, social integration and openness to creativity.
  • Smart Governance: Intelligent, needs-oriented and transparent control of urban administrative processes and infrastructure as well as interaction between residents and the administration.
  • Smart Living: Ensuring a barrier-free, communal, safe and healthy life based on equal opportunities.
  • Smart Data: Collection, processing and use of data in real time (internet of things, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, etc.) and ensuring cyber security.
  • Smart Infrastructure: Establishment and maintenance of a modern ICT infrastructure as well as urban services and networks (health, education, emergency organizations, structural measures in the area of transport & traffic, etc.).
  • Enabler: Formal anchoring of the smart city in the administrative organization, corresponding strategic goals, political mandates or designated budgets, which serve as drivers in the development of a smart city.

Each of the nine dimensions is composed of four to nine individual indicators, which were developed by the project consortium and with all partners. In addition to the already existing projects and structures of a smart city, planned activities were also taken into account, but with less weight.
To calculate the dimensions, the indicators were weighted according to their importance. The weighting was carried out by a panel of seven experts who are intensively involved with the topic of smart city. In selecting the experts, care was taken to ensure that they were as independent as possible, i.e. they do not work for a city or a company that offers smart city solutions. The experts come from the sciences, associations and public administration (excluding cities). The panel of experts included people with a more technical background as well as those from the social sciences in order to avoid a one-sided weighting of the indicators. By means of a three-phase Delphi procedure, all indicators were weighted for the respective dimension. A maximum of 100 points can be achieved per dimension.

Determining the developmental phase

The cities/municipalities are categorized based on the criteria defined in the Smart City Implementation Guide, namely, pilot project phase, institutionalization phase, and establishment phase. The criteria for reaching each developmental phase were defined based on a minimum of activities that cities must have completed. To account for the different pathways cities can take to becoming a smart city, the criteria in the pilot project phase and the institutionalization phase are more flexible, where certain alternative activities are considered as sufficient (e.g. not every city has to develop a smart city strategy; smart city goals can be sufficient and are considered equivalent in this classification).

The criteria for each phase range from not very strict at the pilot project phase, where it suffices to be actively working on smart city topics, somewhat strict for the institutionalization phase where criteria must be partially fulfilled, and very strict for the establishment phase, where all criteria must be fulfilled. Therefore, the barriers for reaching the first phase tend to be low, whereas the next phases become increasingly demanding with much higher barriers.