Tuesday 24 March 2015

S'pore No. 7 on global list of tech-friendly cities

Republic is highest-ranked Asian city, ahead of HK, Seoul and Mumbai
By Ariel Lim, The Straits Times, 23 Mar 2015

SINGAPORE has been ranked the seventh-most-attractive destination around the world for technology companies.

A new report first identified the 12 cities at the forefront of the technology push.

It then assessed them under five categories - business and tech environment, quality of life, talent pool and real estate costs.

The two top-ranked cities were both in the United States: Austin, Texas and San Francisco.

Tel Aviv, New York, Stockholm and London rounded out the next four places ahead of Singapore at No. 7.

Singapore was the highest-ranked Asian city, ahead of Hong Kong, Seoul and Mumbai.

It did especially well in the business environment category, coming second only to New York in the league table.

The inaugural report by property services provider Savills noted that Singapore led the field in the sub-categories of low business costs and regulations, but it warned that the low staff costs here could be a mixed blessing in that they might attract businesses but deter talent.

Singapore was ranked third in the tech environment category.

Broadband here is the fastest among the 12 cities, with an average speed of around 100Mbps.

Singapore was ranked fifth in the quality of life category, which dealt with factors such as the cost of living, working hours, political stability, crime and pollution as well as "city buzz".

This referred to cultural and social gatherings and activities such as bars, festivals and cafe culture.

Its high rank was due to its comparatively low crime rate, commute times and lack of pollution.

The country's small size and "walkable streets" made interaction between people easier than in larger cities where people were generally reliant on cars for transport, said Ms Yolande Barnes, Savills director and head of department for world research.

The report noted that this was relevant as "who is in your street and how you meet them" can make or break a tech city.

It highlighted Singapore's "shophouses and art deco districts" as particularly attractive to creative and technological employees and entrepreneurs, naming Tiong Bahru in particular.

Singapore was ranked eighth in the talent pool category, which Ms Barnes attributed to the older population, compared with the other cities.

She pointed out that Singapore compensated for this by attracting talent from overseas, having a longstanding tradition of immigration and its status as a trade centre.

Having English as a main language helped as well.

Ten of the other cities had English as either a first or a widely spoken second language, with Seoul the only exception.

But Singapore fared poorly in the real estate costs category,with a ranking of 10.

The report called the country a "victim of its own success", noting that it had the highest office costs per square foot among the cities chosen.

However, Ms Barnes said real estate costs had not been given a high weighting in the ranking.

There were some surprises in the other results.

Austin, Texas, was ranked first, defeating major US cities such as San Francisco and New York.

Tel Aviv in third place was the only representative of the Middle East. It benefits from its strong start-up culture and high standard of technological education. Ms Barnes said that every schoolchild in Israel is taught to code.

Mumbai was in 12th place, entering the top dozen despite its average broadband speed of under 10Mbps, by far the lowest in the report.

Savills attributed its success to its affordable space and available workforce.

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