Advice: Karin Wanngård – How to design a successful city

  • Karin Wanngård
  • How to design a successful city
  • As cities become more influential in an increasingly complex world, we ask
    Karin Wanngård, Mayor of Stockholm City, what it takes to navigate this opportunity successfully

Stockholm, was founded in the year 1252. Today, my city is at the forefront of the technological revolution. Attracting the world’s leading IT-companies as well as skilled professionals from all over the world—new and thriving companies are started here every week. Many factors contribute to this. Stockholm is a beautiful, old, quaint and attractive city to live in. We have a high-skilled labour force, mainly due to education—from kindergarten to university—being free of charge. Health care is universal, and Stockholm offers a wide range of cultural activities and green areas.

Stockholm’s fast-paced growth is a success story, but it is also a story that comes with a wide range of challenges. We have a housing shortage that, if not fixed, may deter people from moving here. We need to expand the city, but this must be done in a sustainable way; Stockholm’s good environment being one key factor for many when deciding to live and work here. I strongly believe that the solution lies in welcoming and applying new technology

We have the ambitious goal that Stockholm should be the smartest and most connected city in the world. When it comes to connectivity we are far ahead, having established a company, Stokab, owned by the city that provides dark fibre—reaching 90 percent of the households and 100 percent of businesses. The basic philosophy behind it being that access to fibre infrastructure is a strategic utility for the city—just like water.

Having solid infrastructure in place is, of course, a pre-requisite when building smart cities. But again, the crucial part lies within the process of application. There’s no use in installing faucets in every home, if the water is undrinkable. This is where political will and decision-making comes in.   

Some of the most interesting things are the developments made within open data, big data and Internet of Things (IoT). Combining big data, open data and IoT provides endless possibilities.

There are many examples. Soon, traffic planning can be done in real time, based on open and big data, providing information on traffic jams before they occur to speed up transport and decrease congestion. Automatic control of flow in storm drains to avoid flooding; parking spaces that communicate when they are free; smart and connected lamp posts providing street lighting when needed to save energy and that can measure particle concentrations in the air as well as providing Wi-Fi.

A smart city is also a sustainable city. Finding ways to build sustainable cities and regions will provide those that succeed with a competitive advantage.

A smart city is also a sustainable city. Finding ways to build sustainable cities and regions will provide those that succeed with a competitive advantage. Most people want to live in healthy and good environments, this will in turn attract talent and businesses to those that can offer it.

Tackling climate change is therefore a growth opportunity for cities as it raises the standard of living for citizens and helps attract businesses. And I truly believe that cities can succeed if there is political will and an openness to embrace new technology, while keeping their historical heritage in the process. From old to smart, without losing one’s history.


Stockholm City image credit: Shutterstock



Mayor Karin Wanngård was born in 1975 in Stockholm. She has a background in human resources management, and entered the Stockholm City Council in 1994. Between 2011 and 2014 she acted as Opposition Vice Mayor representing the Social Democratic Party. After the general elections in 2014 the City Council elected Karin Wanngård Mayor of Stockholm.

Karin Wanngård lives in Stockholm with her husband and two children.

Current positions and assignments

• Mayor of the City of Stockholm

• President of the City Executive Board

• Member of the Stockholm City Council

• Chair of the Board of Stockholm Stadshus AB

• Group leader of the Social Democratic Party in the City of Stockholm

Previous positions and assignments

• Opposition Vice Mayor, City of Stockholm

• Vice President of the City Executive Board

International Engagements

• Vice President of EUROCITIES and member of EUOCITIES’ Executive Committee

• Co-leader of C40 Low-carbon District Network

• Champion Mayor of OECD Inclusive Growth in Cities Campaign

• Member of Commissioner Moedas’ High-level Panel of the European Decarbonisation Pathways Initiative (HLP-EDPI)

• Member of Strong Cities Network’s International Steering Committee

Advice: Karin Wanngård – How to design a successful city

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