Mobilizing the Data Revolution to Support Urban Development

Resource Library | Author: Thomas Kingsley| Date: February 2018

In 2015, the United Nations adopted an agenda for global development which posited 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and recognized the importance of addressing the challenges of rapid urbanization. In 2016, the Habitat III conference in Quito, Ecuador, adopted a New Urban Agenda that serves as a framework to guide progress on Sustainable Development Goal 11, which is to make cities sustainable, inclusive, safe, and resilient. Proponents of the global agenda have called for a “data revolution” to further the achievement of the SDGs, but have not offered much guidance on how that should occur as it pertains to urban development.

This paper suggests how the data revolution could be mobilized to achieve the goals on the urban side of both of these agendas. It offers ideas on how data can be used to drive policies and programs that will be both efficient and effective in addressing the enormous challenges of urbanization that must be faced between now and mid-century. But it does so in a manner that treats inclusion and justice as more central goals than they have been in the past.

The first part of the paper explains the urgency of this work and suggests a basic approach to mobilizing the data revolution to transform capacity to achieve urban goals in developing countries today. The second part offers more specific recommendations to countries that are positioned to take advantage of this approach on how they might go about doing so. The third suggests how the international policy community might expedite the adoption of the approach in countries around the world where it is likely to yield high payoff.