If you look to your left and then to your right, chances are you're going to spot a piece of technology (yes, looking forward into your screen counts too). And if you haven't heard of the Big Five tech companies in the world, you're probably not actually reading this article. Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc., Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon bring $5 trillion into the global economy and they just keep growing. But, while the tech world has taken over the real world, how many cities have been blessed by the Midas touch of tech? Let's find out.
North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region dominate the tech world
The table above is a list of the top 20 cities in the world for tech (out of 63 assessed overall). We looked at factors such as basic access to tech, how strong the tech industry is in the city, how much freedom the city offers in the tech world, and how well suited it is for educating and employing the city's future tech geniuses. Dive into our data to get the full World's Tech Hotspots report.
It'll come as no surprise that the USA's San Francisco (home of Silicon Valley) comes up top in the global rankings with a total score of 126.74 out of a possible 170. When every other city's tech hub is known as the “Silicon Valley of -insert name of city here-”, you know you're setting the standard that everyone else can only meekly follow.
That said, New York isn't giving up without a fight, scoring only slightly behind with 125.90. London makes sure the US isn't the only entrant in the top 3, taking a cosy third place with a score of 118.08. A quick trip round the world rounds up the top 6, with Boston scoring 117.27, Stockholm getting 117.05 and Asia's first entrant, Singapore, getting 116.58.
In all, these three continents dominate the top 20 tech hotspots, with cities like Sydney, and Seoul keeping it strong on the Asia-Pacific front, Copenhagen, Berlin and Paris all scoring well for Europe and Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver making sure the North American cohort isn't solely a US affair.
Diving a little deeper into each category, and some cities pop up higher in the rankings:
Which cities provide the best access to tech?
Our Access to Tech metrics look at factors such as smartphone penetration, availability of high-speed internet, social media access and affordability of mobile internet. Copenhagen scores highest in the category, earning 45.32 points out of a possible 50, while Singapore follows with 43.76. Lowest in the list of 63 are India's Bengaluru in second-to-last and Cape Town, South Africa at the bottom, with their lowest scores centred around speed of internet and social media access.
How strong overall is the city's tech industry?
The factors we covered to measure industry strength included number of tech centres in the city, the strength of its start-up ecosystem, the number of unicorns in the city and their Ease of Doing Business score. Dominating the start-up scene is San Francisco (scoring 31.17 out of 40), followed by Beijing (30), New York (27.75), London (25.04) and Seoul (24.54). Despite a decent Ease of Doing Business score, Bogotá falls to the bottom of this category with a tiny score of 1.72.
Where in the world can we freely tech?
The Tech Freedom category covers factors such as web censorship, social progress from a tech perspective and access to online governance (i.e. online public access to government information and input into social decision making). Estonia's Tallinn wins this category with a strong score of 28.63 out of a possible 30, while cities in Japan, Denmark and the Netherlands also featured up top.
While India's Bengaluru gets the bottom spot here, it's perhaps not surprising that cities in China fare pretty badly too: Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Hangzhou all score 12.50. China's particular downfall is in its poor performance in web censorship, with each city receiving 9 out of 10 for level of censorship and tech restrictions. Only Seoul, South Korea scored worse, getting 10 out of 10 for web censorship.
Which city's best for students interested in tech?
Considering the massive value of the industry stated up top, the glitzy world of electronics technology is a great choice for students looking for career security. But, where should they park their e-textbooks? When looking at factors such as access to quality education, average pay for tech jobs such as software engineer, the university rankings of top STEM schools and global technology skillset, New York wins out for students.
Its score of 37.52 out of 50 comfortably dwarfs second-placed San Francisco which gets 34.94. Germany's Munich (34.60) and Berlin (34.23) follow close behind, as does Japan's Tokyo with 33.53. Drop down to the bottom, China's Shenzhen (4.60) and Chengdu (3.03) close off the list for education and careers.
While London wins in the UK, other cities shine brightly too
The eagle-eyed among you might've spotted that London gives many of the cities in the global table a run for their money. But, what about the rest of the UK? The table above's got you covered.
We looked at the following categories: access to technology (high-speed internet, access to funding and the like); strength of industry (top performing companies, existence of tech hubs and others); education and careers (including top universities, and average tech salaries). Here's a quick rundown of the best cities in the UK for tech.
London performs best overall
Not surprisingly, the multitalented capital city performs best across the three categories assessed. Before you accuse us of being London fanboys, the numbers speak for themselves. Thanks to near-perfect scores across the board, London soars above second-placed Birmingham with a massively impressive total score of 88.20 out of 90, compared to Brummies' 31.65. By “perfect”, of course, we mean perfect performance in the metrics we studied – whether the tech industry in London is “perfect” overall is a different question.
Tech seems to favour the UK's southern cities
Looking specifically at the top 5, while Scotland's capital city Edinburgh gets a cosy third place in the overall rankings, no other cities are based in the northern end of the UK. With Birmingham representing the Midlands, Bristol the South West of England, Oxford the South East and Cambridge the East, it's a shame that no other top cities are based in the northern end of the UK.
The top city is a matter of metrics
When you dive deeper into some of the metrics, it's interesting to see where some of the cities take over. For Access to Tech, which looks at internet and 5G speeds and access to capital for tech businesses, Birmingham comes in second (London leads with 28.34 out of 30). But when you slide over to our Strength of Industry metrics, London and Bristol tie in first (30/30) and Edinburgh takes third place (7.29), with Birmingham dropping down to no. 7. It's a similar story in the Education and Careers metrics, with Cambridge (17.29 out of 30) and Oxford (15.95) stepping up to the podium behind London (29.86).
Which UK cities make the grade for tech learning?
If the last year is anything to go by, tech is definitely here to stay. But, where is it likely to linger the longest? We took a look at which cities in the UK are best at preparing the next generation of tech bods.
London does the best here overall, scoring 29.86, mostly thanks to a whopping 6 universities making the global top 100 for STEM teaching. Its best university (Imperial College London) gets a score of 92.1 in Top Universities' rankings. And, of course, the London salary doesn't fail to impress, with software developers in the city earning an average of £40,000 per year.
Of course, Oxford and Cambridge have obvious strong showings in the education category: Cambridge scores 17.29 overall and Oxford gets 15.95. Both of their top universities do better than London, with the University of Cambridge scoring 93.4 in the rankings and the University of Oxford getting 92.5. We'd be remiss not to give the University of Cambridge props for also being third in the world for STEM, and for being the best in Europe.
Back to the overall table and rounding out the top 5 are Edinburgh with a healthy 14.79 overall and Southampton with 14.73. Doing better than Oxbridge, Edinburgh has 2 universities in the top 100 for STEM, with its University of Edinburgh getting an impressive score of 77.8. The University of Southampton isn't too tardy either, scoring 75.3 while The University of Manchester brings a strong showing for the north, scoring 80.5. Whether you're fresh out of school and looking at universities or thinking of going back to school for a sprint in the ever-growing tech sphere, the UK's a great place to start your tech journey.
Whichever city in the world you end up, when you're surrounded by top tech, you'll want to make sure yours keeps up with the times too. Look no further than our mobile phone deals to find some great options that'll have you feeling prepared for new tech possibilities in any of our top tech cities.
We assessed 68 cities on 26 different factors related to the city's capabilities in the electronic technology industry. For the global table, 48 cities were assessed across 17 factors. For the UK table, 22 cities were assessed across 9 factors (London and Manchester appear in both tables). All data was collected March-April 2021. To standardise our results and help rank the cities, a formula was applied to rank each factor evenly between 1-10. The formula used was:
Score(i) = 10 * ( ( (x(i) - x(min) ) / ( (x(max) - x(min) ) )
For each table, a final score was calculated by adding up the points awarded across all factors.