Helping Cities Take Action and Control Their Smart & Data Driven Agendas

Jonathan Wilson is the Urban Data Project Manager at the South African Cities Network (SACN). We discuss the SACN Smart Cities paper series, the importance of open data for cities; siloed operations, and how to solve challenges to urban data management, Common Data Framework for Cities, open data projects in South Africa, cities in 2040, and the decline of urbanisation.

Key Takeaways

Smart Cities Paper series

  • Lack of common understanding about which parties should be doing what.
  • The series draws on collective knowledge for stakeholders to better understand what is possible and what direction to take.
  • Smart Governance: Ability for the government to make decisions thought ICT based tools and collaborative governance.
  • Jonathan expands on the Smart Cities Paper Series and how the Urban Data project fits into it.
  • You can’t do evidence-based decision-making without an understanding and management of the data you have
  • Jonathan talks about the strengths of the South African Cities Network (SACN)
  • His definition of a smart city is one that is using technology, data, and innovation to create efficiencies within the city that achieves its developmental needs.

The importance of open data for cities

  • The pandemic has shown the importance of using science and data to inform evidence-based decision making.
  • Cities don’t always know what evidenced-based decision making means.
  • Jonathan expands on the challenges within cities that they are trying to overcome.
  • Cities are becoming increasingly high-pressure environments
  • How do we get cities to use data to positively impact policies so that policies are not misguided?

Siloed operations and how to solve challenges to urban data management

  • There is a general fear of data within public departments.
  • Public departments often fear that if they share their data it could be used in a malicious fashion against them.
  • Help cities to build the capacity and skills to make evidence-based decision making in-house, instead of only relying on external solution providers to solve their perceived challenges.

Common Data Framework for Cities (CDFC)

  • Jonathan explains the CDFC in 4 components:
  • SCODA (developed in partnership with Open Cities Lab) – Central depository for data.
  • The Code Book
  • South African Council for City Data
  • To proactively use the data the city has.

Open data projects in South Africa

  • Jonathan explores current open data projects in:
  • The City of Cape Town. The water crisis has assisted in being better prepared for the pandemic.
  • eThekwini with EDGE and Open Cities Lab.
  • The City of Tshwane.
  • Smaller local municipalities can benefit from urban data projects

Cities in 2040

  • The worst case: Predatory solution sellers accessing public data for profiteering.
  • He hopes that cities will take action and control their smart and data driven agendas.
  • Use tech to democratically put citizens at the center.
  • Use smart technology for the right reasons.

Rapid Urbanisation on the decline

  • Rate of population growth within cities have reached a plato and is on the decrease.
  • Cannot carry on blaming rapid urbanisation as the reason of all our challenges.
  • We need to look at governance issues we face within cities.
  • We can potentially see an even bigger slow-down of urbanization.


About Jonathan Wilson

Since graduating with a MSc from The Bartlett School of Planning as a Chevening Scholar, Jonathan operates as a project manager for the South African Cities Network - exchanging best practices and research pertaining to urban data and smart cities to South Africa’s largest cities and municipalities.

Within the SACN, Jonathan project manages the Urban Data Programme. This programme aims to assist cities to better use data and smart solutions to better inform decision making. This is done under the guise of the Common Data Framework for Cities that consists of the following 5 components:

  • South African Cities Open Data Almanac (SCODA) – an online data repository and analysis platform of urban data;
  • the Codebook – a live list, definition and methodology of common indicators and data availability that cities are required to report on;
  • Reporting Service – that seeks to automate reporting processes for cities;
  • Capacity Building – that aims to build human capital and processes within cities to better use data to inform decision making for planning and policy; and,
  • The South African Council for City Data (SACCD) – an assembly driven by city representatives, that promotes peer learning, knowledge exchange and communication - establishing a common language, and stronger voice, for city data.

 

Jonathan has successfully presented at both the SALGA research Colloquium in Durban, South Africa, as well as taking part in a panel discussion at the Smart Cities Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. Moreover, Jonathan has won numerous urban awards – including the Innovative Idea Award, awarded by the Smart Cities Congress.

See: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jonathanwilsonza

About The South African Cities Network (SACN)
The South African Cities Network (SACN) is an established network of South African cities and partners that encourages the exchange of information, experience and best practices on urban development and city management. Since 2002 the SACN’s objectives are to:

  • Promote good governance and management in South African cities
  • Analyse strategic challenges facing South African cities
  • Collect, collate, analyse, assess, disseminate and apply the experience of large city government in a South African context
  • Encourage shared learning partnerships among spheres of government in order to enhance good governance of South African cities.

Visit: www.sacities.net

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