CBS Urban Data Centre/The Hague launched

08/09/2017 13:00 / Author: Miriam van der Sangen
This year’s UN Public Service Day was held from 22 to 23 June in the city of The Hague. It was organised by the United Nations (UN) in cooperation with the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK). The aim of this year’s conference was to provide information and inspiration to the more than 500 attending public servants regarding innovative developments in the area of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). During the conference, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and the Municipality of The Hague also announced their plans for collaboration in a CBS Urban Data Centre/The Hague.

Urban Data Centres

The CBS Urban Data Centre/The Hague is a partnership between CBS and the municipality. It was set up with the aim to broaden, deepen and improve the knowledge of local data, for example by linking them with CBS’ data. CBS will assist the municipality in the collection, processing and analysis of data to create a fact-finding basis that will enhance local decision-making and policies. Programme director for CBS Robert Hermans explains: ‘Earlier this year, the Interior Ministry approached us with the request to present our UDC concept at the UN Public Service Day event, which was going to centre around innovation in public services. In March the Municipality of The Hague indicated its wish to set up an Urban Data Centre with CBS. We thought it would be an excellent moment to announce the launch of the UDC/The Hague during the UN conference and received a positive response from the Interior Ministry.’

Innovative

On 23 June 2017, the second day of the UN conference, The Hague’s Chief Information Officer Marijn Fraanje and CBS Director General Tjark Tjin-A-Tsoi presented their plans for cooperation. Tjin-A-Tsoi explained the innovative nature of the Urban Data Centre concept: ‘CBS being a learning and innovative public organisation is seeking a more interactive relationship with Dutch society. We also want to tailor our services more to the needs of users. By collaborating with municipalities in UDCs, CBS is fulfilling a public task.’ CIO Fraanje explained why the Urban Data Centre is assisting the municipality in tackling social issues: ‘The use of data is becoming increasingly important while performing tasks and providing services to local residents and businesses in The Hague. Smarter application of data can lead to new insights and these will result in more effective policies which are even better suited to local needs.’

Enhance effectiveness

As Chief Information Officer (CIO) at the Municipality of The Hague, Marijn Fraanje is responsible for the municipality’s information provision. The Hague already possesses a large volume of data in the municipal registers, but there is a need for even more information. Fraanje: ‘We are increasingly often looking for data to help us analyse the social issues we encounter and see the effects of our policies. We hope CBS can give us additional information which will help enhance our own effectiveness. During this analysis, we want to combine the different domains and perspectives.’

‘We have noticed many local authorities find it difficult to use data and make a translation to actual policy’

Research agenda

The joint preparations by CBS and the Municipality of The Hague have gone smoothly, according to Fraanje. ‘We are holding regular meetings, but the biggest challenge is to eventually achieve the results we aim for in this partnership.’ For example, two CBS experts will be seconded to the Municipality. Together with the city government, they will identify and carry out a number of projects. Fraanje: ‘We want to link our own research agenda to the Urban Data Centre, to see the effects of our policy measures.’ What are some of the topics at hand that will be explored in-depth? ‘Public order and safety, area-specific and district approach, poverty, sustainability, and open data, to name a few.’ The CIO is positive about the fact that CBS wants to commit its core business towards assisting municipalities. ‘There is not enough collaboration between the various authorities yet, but this is one good example of the possibilities.’ He estimates that in about a year, the performance of the CBS Urban Data Centre/The Hague can be judged on its added value.

Sustainable Development Goals

Lisa Mengerink works at the Ministry of the Interior (BZK) and was closely involved in preparations for the UN conference. ‘The UN Public Service Day is an annual event. This time, the central theme was Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN has established 17 goals for sustainable development in areas ranging from the economy to energy, health and so on, for the period up to 2030. A great deal is already happening, but much remains to be done in many different areas. Dutch central government can exert a lot of influence on these activities and this lies with the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK).’ The UN conference was attended by over 500 representatives including 30 Interior Ministers from various UN countries, members of the European Commission with great expertise on specific issues and high-level officials as well as business executives. ‘Our aim was to present a number of practical examples in the area of SDGs and to inspire others. We have shown what individual countries can do to achieve the required level in the SDGs and what role central government can play.’ Late in 2016, CBS was the first statistical office in the world to publish a comprehensive overview of the SDGs specifically geared to the national goals, including comparisons with other European countries. It received much praise for this publication from both national and international stakeholders.

From data to policy

Mengerink applauds the initiative by CBS to set up Urban Data Centres in cooperation with municipalities around the country. ‘We have noticed that many local authorities find it difficult to use data and make a translation to actual policy. With CBS being closely involved, they will be able to accomplish much more. It is certainly interesting to see CBS, a centrally-run organisation with huge amounts of data, turn to local authorities for collaboration.’ The UN conference concluded on Friday afternoon with the presentation of awards to participants who had created and implemented innovative solutions in the area of SDGs. One interesting project was in Botswana, where there used to be high unemployment and where the introduction of a social improvement programme had raised the level of self-sufficiency among the local population.

The official opening of the CBS Urban Data Centre in The Hague will take place September 2017.