As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold around the globe, city governments leapt into action implementing measures such as social distancing, lockdowns, and established teleworking protocols. Cities also launched specific initiatives, often in parallel with national ones, to support economic recovery, maintain the continuity of local public service delivery (including targeted services for vulnerable groups), and provide access to amenities and the reopening of public spaces consistent with COVID-19 safety protocols. Leveraging digital and communication tools, cities innovated as if their residents’ lives depended on it—because they did. While city leaders demonstrated agility in providing rapid and concrete responses to contain the devastation of the pandemic, they also looked to build future resilience by preparing for the shift to new urban paradigms favouring flexibility and adaptability, shifting focus from mobility to accessibility, and understanding how to fully harness the digital transition.

Empowering cities to innovate is a long-standing priority of both Bloomberg Philanthropies and the OECD. It is also a primary focus of the partnership between our two organisations for several years—to glean and share insights from the practical experience of hundreds of mayors, city leaders and stakeholders around the world.

While many innovation stories document the successful outcomes in individual cities, Innovation and Data Use in Cities: A Road to Increased Well-being provides comprehensive analysis on the range, shape, and results of innovation efforts in 147 cities. This report is the first of its kind to provide evidence on how cities’ investments in innovation and data can improve the well-being of residents. It also shows that cities with higher public sector innovation capacity have higher levels of city and life satisfaction. Furthermore, across key well-being dimensions from housing to environment, health and walkability, it uncovers that cities with higher innovation capacity and data practices outperformed cities with lower innovation and data use capacity.

The world’s cities and their residents have been subject to an extraordinary test over the last 18 months. And they will be tested again as we seek to recover from the aftermath of the pandemic. This report, reflecting the efforts in dozens of cities by thousands of city stakeholders, demonstrates that by continuing to evolve capacities to use data and reinforcing a culture of innovation, city governments are, more than ever before, ready for the challenge.

Lamia Kamal-Chaoui

OECD, Centre for Entrepreneurship,

SMEs Regions and cities


James Anderson

Bloomberg Philanthropies


Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2021

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at