Deep Dive into the South African Cities Open Data Almanac (SCODA)

Joanne Parker is the project lead for SCODA at Open Cities Lab. Tshegang Chipeya is the project lead for the Durban EDGE Programme at eThekwini Municipality. We explore what SCODA is, what it offers Cities, tools utilised in the Durban EDGE case and success stories, Open Data challenges at the municipal level and how they can be overcome.

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Discussion highlights

This episode is presented in partnership with Open Cities Lab

Who and what is the South African Cities Open Data Almanac (SCODA)

  • City-centric data portal that aims to support the planning, management, monitoring, and reporting needs of cities.
  • SCODA contains data and indicators organised around key thematic areas: Productive cities, Inclusive cities, Sustainable Cities, Well-governed cities, City demographics.
  • SCODA is run by the South African Cities Network (SACN).
  • Has become a programme where open-source civic tech is offered to cities to improve their data pipeline, data sharing and data management practices.

How the programme came about and where the need stemmed from

  • Idea for central repository of open standardised and transparent city data was formed by Open Cities lab and South African Cities Network.
  • There was a demand from cities to find new ways to collect, share and compare data.

How they heard about the programme at the Durban EDGE

  • The Durban EDGE is eThekwini Municipality’s platform to provide cutting-edge economic intelligence and insight to economic decision makers.
  • Used to disseminate information through PDFs.
  • Realised the way people use and consume data was changing.
  • During a conversation Richard Gevers, CEO at Open Cities Lab, he mentioned what was possible and that they're looking to do a pilot. It is was a perfect match.

What SCODA offers Cities and the tools they utilise

  • Technical assistance with their data needs: Civic tech, data strategies and capacity development.
  • Focus on real-world use cases and use of relevant data to a specific city.
  • CKAN, data-stories and dashboards for easier visualisation, Business intelligence, and analytics, Kobo Toolbox, bespoke tools (e.g. Code Book for SA Cities Network).

How these tools have been utilised in the Durban EDGE case

  • Open Data Portal developed by Open Cities Lab on CKAN.
  • Datastories, especially for those who don’t want too much data but only a picture or story of what the data is showing.
  • Datasets, for those who want to look at the data and do their own research.
  • Dashboards, for those not interested in long stories or a lot of data.
  • Covid-19 tool of all types of funding available in national, provincial, private sector and Durban city level.

The importance of Open Data for the Durban EDGE and how the portal has helped

  • They exist to share economic intelligence, thus it is central to their mandate.
  • SCODA helps to make it easy, more accessible, and quicker for people to connect on information. It also increases their reach.

The parties involved in making the programme a success

  • Founding partners: Open Cities Lab and South African Cities Network
  • Open Cities Lab mainly responsible for project management, design, development, and technical data assistance.
  • South African Cities Network mainly responsible for city liaison, content development, and curation, and strategic oversight.
  • City representatives and practitioners are critical and play a big role.

Next steps and future vision for SCODA

  • More uses cases and expand to more SA cities and other cities across the continent.
  • Build more autonomy in the programme.
  • Increase city and partner autonomy on the use of the civic tech tools and process that SCODA delivers.
  • Grow inter-city collaboration and city collaboration with South African Cities Network around these tools and uses cases (e.g. The Code Book).
  • Improve their impact measurement.

Major challenges faced at the Durban EDGE and how where they overcome

  • Concept of Open Data was very new in the city.
  • Getting access to data form different parties on Durban.
  • Did not foresee the amount of capacity needed to move forward.
  • New skills and data ‘know-how’ was needed.
  • Making data usable for the end user.

Success story at Durban EDGE

  • Consumption on energy data converted to GDP data estimates per Ward level, Tshegang explains how they did it.

Where to find SCODA and the Durban EDGE Portal

About Joanne Parker

Joanne Parker is the project lead for SCODA at Open Cities Lab. SCODA is a programme developed in partnership with the South Africa Cities Network that uses civic technology, together with capacity development, to solve the data challenges of City practitioners. This includes the co-design and development of data pipelines, data strategy, data portals, dashboards, data stories, and data collection tools.

About Tshegang Chipeya

Tshegang Chipeya is the project lead for the Durban EDGE Programme at EThekwini Municipality, and the City's economic research lead. The Durban EDGE is the City's platform for economic intelligence, for economic stakeholders in EThekwini's economy. The public interface for the Durban EDGE is the Durban EDGE Open Data Portal, which includes datasets, datastories, dashboards, reports, and other thematic economic intelligence products.

About Open Cities Lab
We work to build inclusion and participatory democracy in cities and urban spaces through empowering citizens, building trust and accountability in civic space, and capacitating government.

CITIZEN EMPOWERMENT
We empower citizens to know their rights and understand the data, knowledge, mechanisms, and processes they can use to make their lives, and those of their communities, better. ‘Better’ means more inclusive and participative, both in ‘hard’ topics such as service delivery and built environment, as well as social cohesion, dignity, placemaking, and community building.

BUILDING GOVERNMENT CAPACITY
We work proactively with the government to build capacity for informed decision-making and evidence-based policy and planning, with a focus on areas where this can uplift vulnerable and excluded communities. We enable co-design of existing and new processes and mechanisms for including citizens in decision-making, including sharing and opening data and information, and ‘crowding-in’ of intelligence and insight.

TRUST & ACCOUNTABILITY IN CIVIC SPACE
We work with key actors including communities, the media, academia, and government to build accountability and trust in civic space. This includes fair and independent media, monitoring and transparent oversight of power, such as state-owned enterprises, and increasingly, the use of AI and machine learning in areas that affect privacy and democracy.

Visit: https://opencitieslab.org/

About The Durban EDGE
The Durban EDGE is eThekwini Municipality’s platform to provide cutting-edge economic intelligence and insight to economic decision-makers. The brand was established in 2011 by the City’s Economic Development Unit. The Durban EDGE produces publications; economic info releases, as well as on-demand seminars; an annual release on the State of the Durban Economy; and topical research papers.

Visit: https://edge.durban/

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