How better data can help improve urban planning and reduce inequalities | TheCityFix

The map shows limited access to road networks in much of Dar es Salaam. Source: Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation, Map of millions of neighborhoods

High-quality local data can provide valuable information for urban planning and lead to better policies on mobility, climate adaptation, gender equity, and more. But only if the inputs are good and there is enough capacity to parse it effectively.

New technologies like Map of millions of neighborhoods, a tool designed to detect gaps in services at the neighborhood level, helps to improve the quality, granularity and availability of data for urban planning. They are particularly useful in informal settlements. Using algorithms applied to data from the open source GIS database, OpenStreetMapthe Millions of Neighborhoods map identifies communities down to the block level with limited access to road networks, a variable that the University of Chicago’s Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation says is an effective indicator of access to other basic urban services.

In areas where buildings have limited access to streets, the lack of routes or access points tends to impede the physical delivery or availability of services, including potable water, emergency services and transport. In addition, buildings that are not located on streets lack official addresses, making it more difficult to organize the formal provision of services such as garbage collection.

In this map of Dar es Salaam, red areas represent low-access neighborhoods, areas also more likely to be informal settlements, established with minimal planning and little essential infrastructure. Mapping and understanding the extent of these informal areas is a major challenge in today’s fastest growing cities, as many cities are not keeping up.

Poor access to services can reduce productivity, reduce opportunity, lead to poor health outcomes, inflict severe environmental consequences and lock households into poverty for generations. Conversely, focus on better reach underserved populations can transform cities and deliver benefits to all residents.

In Dar es Salaam, there are far more low-access red areas than blue areas, indicating high informality and a potentially large “urban services gap” between richer and poorer households. Indeed, we know that low-income households in Dar es Salaam typically spend 17% their income on piped water (when the option is even available) and 38% on communal water supply (where it is not), much higher than the United Nations Development Program recommendation 3% of income.

To address informality and service gaps, the government of Dar es Salaam implemented the 20,000 Plot Project, designed to provide planned and serviced land. Unfortunately, less than 17% of the plots were small and affordable, which left out low-income residents and instead generated more informality. In addition, many plots have still not had access to basic urban services, as WRI research explores.

In contrast, programs in Mumbai and Chennai, India, and Windhoek, Namibia, have been successful in fostering more planned and serviced settlements. In India, the introduction of smaller and more varied plot sizes, infrastructure and price standards for different groups has helped create well-planned, well-served, mixed-use and mixed-income neighborhoods. The program linked plot selection with connectivity to employment and transportation and enabled space for social services and commercial businesses run by community residents to thrive. In Namibia, the Windhoek City Government, in cooperation with the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia, has succeeded in reducing the cost of formal housing by changing building codes, reducing minimum plot sizes and lowering housing standards. ‘infrastructure.

Even in cities where data collection is still under development, tools like the Million Neighborhood Map can help identify informality and poor access to services to inform better urban planning that benefits all residents. . Other similar initiatives leveraging the kind of open, granular spatial data available on OpenStreetMap are helping cities coping with urban climate risks and responding to humanitarian crises. Ensuring that this localized data on service access gaps is used as input into decision-making at all levels is crucial to ensuring more equitable outcomes for the most vulnerable urban residents.

Sophie Vitello is a Communications and Engagement Assistant at the WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.