Cities Driven by Data
By Koel ChatterJee

With the current pace at which cities are expanding all over the globe, it is estimated that around 67% of the world’s population will live in the cities by the year 2050. United Nations has assessed that already half of the world’s population live in urban environment which, in the current technological scheme of things, poses new challenges to the city administrations. Hence the concept of smart cities and data driven cities were introduced to harness the potential of tonnes of data flowing through them, for speedy decision-making and instant solutions, proper maintenance of the city infrastructure, increase in safety and security, proper strategizing, improvement in quality and equality in dispensing various social services, increase in involvement of urban residents in the management, and making the cities better places to live in.

Moscow, Russia

Moscow has introduced an online web-portal along with a mobile app, called “Our City” which enables the residents to submit applications or complaints about various maintenance and cleanliness services like, garbage collection, pothole maintenance, cleanliness of adjacent streets, etc. While submitting the application in the web portal or app, a citizen has to write a small description of the problem, with photos, if available. Then the same is forwarded to the designated authority or sub-contractor and given a pre-scheduled time frame to complete the task. After the complaint has been addressed, it is sent to the citizen, usually with photos of the outcome.

Along with an improved infrastructural and maintenance service, this also generates ample data to speed up the process of administrative problem-solving, prevent a number of sanitary problems and increase active involvement of its citizens regarding the urban problems.

New York City, USA

The hyperactive city, famous for never going to sleep, New York City has utilised technology for spontaneous city management and high eventfulness. Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, or MODA, is an urban analytics centre whose work is to collate data from different city departments and analyse them in order to develop strategies to improve the urban environment and develop the technology and innovation. Also, the street lights of the city have been replaced by the LED lights, and it has the largest city-wide WiFi network in the USA.

The Hudson Yards Project is set to digitally track various factors like traffic patterns, environmental factors, energy consumption and air quality, and implement a waste-disposal system which will dispose of trash via underground tubes. The NYC Open Data Portal, launched by the city administration consists of data generated by almost all departments of the city, which any user can access on the site.

Quito, Ecuador

More than 80% of women in the city had complained of sexual harassment in public transportation. Bájale al Acoso is a mobile platform, via which anyone can send an SMS about a safety concern in a public transport and her location, which is set to be addressed within three minutes, either by activating an alarm within the bus or dispatching the nearest public official to the spot.

Another platform, Mi Ciudad contains data regarding the infrastructure, city services, and budget allocation and encourages participation by the residents in planning and allocation of municipal budgets in the city.  Also, the residents can use an online calculator to measure their water footprint, which has resulted in a higher per-capita use of water than other adjacent cities.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Crime Radar is the world’s first crime forecasting platform, which has been made open to the public. Data on crimes are collected and analysed by the free app, to create accurate models of crime dynamics in the city and predict the probability crimes, based on the algorithms.

Another initiative by the city’s administration included a portal named Central 1746, which refers to the phone number that can be used to request services from the government like repair of roads and potholes, waste removal, reporting illegal activity witnessed, etc.

Boston, USA

While a number of cities have encouraged their residents to come forward and participate in the city’s administration, Boston has gone ahead and given its residents a mean to hold the administration to account, in case they fail to keep up to their tasks. CityScore, an online dashboard, displays the metrics of the tasks or projects implemented by the city government against the targets set. The data is collected partially by various sensors and workers after completing a project, and are open to all citizens.

Copenhagen, Denmark

In order to address the issue of managing sewage and wastage of water, Copenhagen is forecasting the amount of rainfall in order to anticipate when and where the city’s waste-water system will come under pressure. Real-time meteorological data, as well as analysis of the behaviour of sewerage system’s models, have been utilised to successfully predict the flow and levels of water in various places, several hours in advance. This has resulted in increased optimization of sewerage systems and wastewater treatment plants.

The city government wanted the streets to be filled with cycles so that its residents are turned away from the polluting means of transport. Hence, in order to assist the cyclists of the city and increase their number, they are provided with useful information with the help of an app, like real-time traffic information, routes to follow in order to avoid congestion or harsh weather conditions, the current speed of the riders. The streets are also filled with smart lights for night time cycling. These light stay turned off when the streets are empty, and shine brightly as they sense an incoming cyclist.

These are some of the examples of how data can help a city government run the city more smoothly and improve the quality of life of its residents. There a lot of other examples around the world, of how human imagination can utilise Fourth Industrial Revolution to produce information. It is important to note here that the common people should have an open access to data, in order to have a profound impact on the cities.

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