Want to live in the world’s best city? Better brush up on your Cantonese. According to a study released last week by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and BuzzData, a data sharing company, Hong Kong comes out on top of a new list created by combining the EIU’s famous Liveability Index with other data to create a new ranking.
For the list, called the Spatially Adjusted Liveability Index, architect Filippo Lovato looked at seven characteristics of cities, such as: green space, urban sprawl (or lack thereof), access to nature, availability of world-class cultural assets (measured by counting the number of U.N. World Heritage Sites nearby), connectivity (how easy it is to reach the rest of the world), isolation (measured by the number of other large cities nearby) and pollution.
Although Hong Kong received the lowest score for pollution among the top 10 cities, it was able to top the list because of good scores for green space, lack of urban sprawl, access to nature, and closeness to other big cities. “Hong Kong, the winner, is a very compact city that has managed to maintain its natural heritage, create a dense network of green spaces and enjoy extensive links to the rest of the world,” explained Lovato. “Hong Kong is the winner because I chose to give prominence to spatial characteristics.”
According to Lovato’s new index, Amsterdam and Osaka are the world’s second and third best cities, respectively, while the world’s least livable city is Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. The Economist, however, points out that the new index has several shortcomings and limitations. First of all, Hong Kong has an unfair advantage with green space because of its unique topography: much of the territory’s landmass consists of sparsely populated islands or steep, vegetation-covered mountainsides that would be difficult to build on. Second, data alone does not reflect the actual livability of city. Case in point: data suggests that Osaka is more livable than Tokyo but The Economist argues that in real life Tokyo is a better place to live in. Another limitation of the new index is that Lovato only surveyed 70 cities, compared to the 140 examined in the EIU index.
Despite its shortcomings, the purpose of the new rankings was to discover new approaches for measuring the world’s best cities, says The Economist.