Measuring urban digitalization using cognitive mapping and the best worst method (BWM)

Fabiana C. Vieira, Fernando A.F. Ferreira, Kannan Govindan, Neuza C.M.Q.F. Ferreira*, Audrius Banaitis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Rapid population growth and urbanization have a strong impact on individuals’ well-being. These trends are currently important topics in city management. As a significant driver of digitalization, technological development has been found to have great potential as a mitigator of a wide range of issues that cities face. To ensure the available technologies are being correctly used, municipalities need to measure their degree of digitalization. This assessment is also important to improve city officials’ understanding of areas that need interventions so that cities can be managed better and provide their residents with a better quality of life. This study applies the baseline principles of the multiple-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) approach to develop a decision-support system that facilitates urban digitalization evaluations. The results rely on insights provided by a panel of experts in this area, who used cognitive mapping and the best worst method (BWM) to identify important evaluation criteria within urban digitalization and to analyze their cause-and-effect relationships. The final outcomes were validated by the panel members and representatives of the Associação Nacional de Municípios Portugueses (i.e., National Association of Portuguese Municipalities) and the Agência National de Inovação (i.e., National Innovation Agency). These specialists confirmed that the evaluation system developed facilitates city differentiation in key areas of urban digitalization. The advantages and limitations of the proposed procedures are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102131
JournalTechnology in Society
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was partially funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (Grants UIDB/00315/2020 and UIDB/04630/2020). Records from the expert panel meetings, including pictures, software output and non-confidential information of the study, can be obtained from the corresponding author upon request. The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of the panel members: Arlindo Ribeiro, Filipe Rodrigues, João Dinis, Jorge Saraiva, Luísa Araújo, Paulo Pinto, Pedro Barradas, and Pedro Moreira. We also wish to acknowledge the contribution of Maria João Lopes, representative of the National Association of Portuguese Municipalities, as well as João Ferreira and Luís Maia, both representatives of the National Innovation Agency, for the insights provided during the consolidation phase.


  • Best worst method (BWM)
  • Cognitive mapping
  • Multiple-criteria decision analysis (MCDA)
  • Smart city
  • Urban digitalization


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