Statistics Netherlands, city of Eindhoven join forces to launch first CBS Urban Data Center

© Hollandse Hoogte

CBS and the city of Eindhoven have embarked on a unique joint project combining CBS’ know-how on data infrastructure, data processing and privacy with Eindhoven’s ambitions to realise data-driven urban development. The statistical bureau and the municipality have joined forces in the CBS Urban Data Center/Eindhoven. On 22 September 2016, CBS Director General Tjark Tjin-A-Tsoi and Mary-Ann Schreurs (Alderman Innovation, Culture and Public Space in Eindhoven) signed a cooperation agreement to this effect.

Power of ICT and technology

A few months ago, representatives of CBS and the municipality of Eindhoven met to see how they could work together in the area of municipal data. Before long this led to concrete steps, resulting in the signing of a cooperation agreement at Eindhoven’s Van Abbe Museum on 22 September 2016. In the words of Mary-Ann Schreurs, the city wants to become a smart society, making optimum use of the power of data, technology and ICT for its inhabitants. ‘It is essential to venture together with stakeholders in the face of the social challenges before us. You cannot solve these problems alone as a municipality. We have committed our city to be a testing ground for the development of intelligent lighting applications and a smart lighting grid in the public space. We are bringing together data, location and space. The city government’s ambition is to provide lighting in such an innovative way that it will contribute to quality of life in the city.’

Local wishes and needs

As director general Tjin-A-Tsoi says, three developments have come together. ‘Firstly: it is not only national government that needs data. Local authorities, too, have their own wishes and needs in terms of indicators, partly because of increasing decentralisation. Secondly: there is the often quoted ‘data revolution’: more and more data becoming available. And thirdly: there is the emergence of smart cities and smart societies, which are largely data driven. As a result, city governments see opportunities but at the same time they conclude it costs too much time, capacity and money to set up the expertise and infrastructure themselves. And if each city in the Netherlands were to do this by itself, the risk would be a fragmented and mismatched data infrastructure. Then there is also the question of whether security and confidentiality – areas in which CBS has decades of experience – would be guaranteed if all municipalities were to organise this separately. The collaboration between CBS and Eindhoven offers a solution for these problems and gives CBS an opportunity to complement local practices.’

Combining data

Under the collaboration between the two parties, Eindhoven can make use of the expertise of CBS in the areas of data infrastructure, secure data storage, data analysis, statistics and privacy for its own purposes. Alderman Schreurs: ‘As a municipality, we are primarily responsible for implementation in a large number of domains. In the end, what matters is the result. By combining our own data with those of CBS, we can see this result much more clearly. Moreover, developments such as Big Data help us to understand better the effects of what we do, and how we can do better. And we are literally all at work in this respect. We are no longer doing it only for people, but with people: inhabitants, businesses, welfare organisations, knowledge institutes and central government. By working with CBS, we want to discover together what we can do better with the aid of technological developments.’

Other cities showing interest

Eindhoven is the first municipality in the Netherlands to make use of CBS’ know-how and expertise in a CBS Urban Data Center. Other municipalities have also started to become interested and are discussing setting up an Urban Data Centre. Heerlen, for example, decided on 20 September to set up a UDC with CBS before the end of the year. Larissa Zegveld, director of the quality institute for Dutch municipalities KING (Kwaliteitsinstituut Nederlandse Gemeenten), applauds the initiative of CBS and Eindhoven municipality. ‘Data-driven government by municipalities has been going on for some time now, and makes it possible for us to see whether municipal policies are effective. Working with data is essential for municipal governments. This excellent initiative by CBS contributes to this and the role CBS wants to play is a logical one from our point of view. However, KING also believes that the municipalities themselves should start learning how to analyse the vast amounts of data they themselves have. They are not doing so enough yet, although we have seen examples of municipalities who have made a good start. Utrecht, for example. To support municipalities in this respect, KING is to set up a data lab, for which 30 municipalities have registered to explore the area of data analysis.’

World Council on City Data

CBS’ Urban Data Center initiative also has an international dimension: in the short term, CBS will sign a cooperation agreement with the Word Council on City Data (WCCD), based in Toronto, Canada. The WCCD is a global leader in the area of urban indicator standardisation and specialises in ISO certification of cities in the areas of quality of life, sustainability and smart data under the ISO 37120 standard. WCCD is responsible for global ISO 37120 certification of cities of all sizes, and has certified dozens of cities in recent years, including Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Boston, Dubai, Johannesburg, Helsinki, Mekka, Melbourne and Los Angeles, but also many smaller cities, metropolitan regions and provinces. The WCCD furthermore works together with organisations such as the UN and the World Bank. In the Netherlands, both Amsterdam and Rotterdam have received WCCD ISO 37120 certification. WCCD Vice President Nico Tillie: ‘We are joining forces with Statistics Netherlands in order to certify more Dutch municipalities. Furthermore, both our organisations are going to work on a solid database for municipal policies in urban areas, based on the ISO urban indicators.’

CBS Urban Data Center/Eindhoven: what is it exactly?

CBS Urban Data Center/Eindhoven has started with a portfolio of 10 projects, including compilation of neighbourhood-oriented information, enriching data on companies e.g. to gain insight into building vacancy rates, and charting visitor flows with the aid of sensors and Big Data sources. These flows can then be compared with turnover developments in the city centre. In this way, Eindhoven can monitor policy goals related to retail and hotel/restaurant turnover. One of the spearheads of the CBS Urban Data Center/Eindhoven is to translate CBS reports on national statistics into better and more detailed regional and local reporting. In this way, national developments can be quickly translated into regional and local effects in the society. To this end, CBS provides expertise on how to use new Big Data sources and the integration of municipal data with CBS data.

The CBS Urban Data Center/Eindhoven will work closely with CBS’ Center for Big Data Statistics, which will be launched on 27 September.

For more information about CBS Urban Data Centers, please contact the programme director at CBS, Robert Hermans: