With two-thirds of the world’s population expected to live in cities by 2050, the question of how to make cities work better for their inhabitants has never been more urgent. If harnessed, the data that permeate cities can answer this question in myriad ways, and serve to inspire solutions for navigating the technological, social and economic changes of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’.
With this in mind, and as part of a World Economic Forum drive to empower city leadership in employing technology to improve the urban experience and using data to define and measure their preparedness for this transformation, it has published a report “Data-Driven Cities: 20 Stories of Innovation”.
The report is a collection of 20 of the most creative ways cities worldwide are drawing on big data to improve services and quality of life. The purpose of the report is to help city leaders make sense of the different data available to them and, more importantly, how to best use the data to design and deliver better services. The list, selected by a diverse panel of experts drawn from academia, industry and government, covers five key areas of city life: people, economy, governance, infrastructure and the environment.
Citizens leave their digital trace just about everywhere they go, both voluntarily and involuntarily. Each phone call, text message, email, social media post, online search and credit card purchase is recorded and stored in the cloud. When cross-referenced with each user’s geographical location, data harnessed at this scale offers a means of describing, and responding to, the dynamics of the city in real time.
The potential to collect, analyze and apply urban data to achieve deeper insight on city preparedness, makes this a critical moment for cities to embrace and encourage the use of data to drive their development.
The stories in the report illustrate how data can be used to improve the experience of the built environment – whether by public entities, large corporations, startups, or private citizens. It shows how by using data, it is possible to better understand the digital world in ways that enable city leaders to transform physical space. This can then help develop solutions to tackle some of the most pressing issues – from energy to waste, from water to mobility, from urban design to citizen participation.
An aim of the report is to inspire reflection on the vast possibilities of data collection and analysis to improve the liveability, governance and sustainability of the world’s cities and begin the discussion on where action is possible.
Innovative approaches of data-driven city innovation highlighted in the report include:
Boston, USA: the city developed CityScore; an online dashboard showing how the city government is performing against 24 metrics. A single, composite, daily score summarizes how the administration is performing overall.
Copenhagen, Denmark: dynamic signs and “intelligent” street lights are helping cyclists beat the traffic.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates: the Gulf city is driving an effort to implement blockchain in as many government services as possible by 2020.
Fukuoka, Japan: the city is using algorithms to migrate freight and public transport vehicles to hydrogen fuel cells powered by human sewage.
Kolkata, India: a social enterprise, Addressing the Unaddressed, is using geographic information systems (GIS) to map unplanned settlements, providing addresses – and vital services – for their inhabitants.
Quito, Ecuador: Bájale al Acoso, a mobile platform for women to report sexual harassment on the municipal public transport system, is already improving the way the city is policed.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: while many cities are using predictive policing to anticipate crime, Rio de Janeiro’s CrimeRadar is the first service in the world to make data on crime accessible to the public, helping people make informed decisions on how to minimize the risk.
Yinchuan, China: seamless public transport has been made easy with the deployment of facial recognition technology to automate the payment process.
“The Forum seeks to empower cities as they prepare for the social, economic and technological transformations of the fourth industrial revolution. The ability to collect data, correctly interpret it and apply the results will be key to driving these advances. We hope these stories serve to steer future conversations and catalyze innovative actions,” said Cheryl Martin, head of industries and member of the managing board, World Economic Forum.
“It is now more important than ever to understand the consequences of data – how it can affect people’s lives. This is the goal of the data stories we have collected in this report. Big data is far more than just a matter of quantity: it is big promise for our cities as they face the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution,” said Carlo Ratti, director, SENSEable City Lab, MIT and co-chair of the Global Future Council on the Future of Cities and Urbanization.
[Image: Moscow’s Our City portal has already registered nearly 1.1 million users, and delivered over 2 million complaint resolutions]