During a festive gathering at The Hague’s City Hall on 26 September 2017, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and the municipality of The Hague jointly launched a new Urban Data Centre. The purpose of the UDC/The Hague is to broaden, deepen and improve local data by linking them with data available at Statistics Netherlands. This collaboration serves to create a more solid factual basis for municipal decision and policy making. The plans are further outlined here by Deputy Mayor/Alderman Rabin Baldewsingh and CBS Director General Tjark Tjin-A-Tsoi.
Rabin Baldewsingh is The Hague’s alderman for Social Affairs, Employment, Neighbourhood Approach, Integration Policy and Sport as well as the Escamp and Laak districts. He explains that the CBS Urban Data Centre/The Hague was set up in view of the growing importance of data for the proper development of local public services to residents and businesses. ‘Better use of data can yield new insights and more effective policies, for example in the area of poverty reduction.’ Although many data can be obtained from municipal registrations, the city government requires even more information: ‘As a municipality, we regularly conduct research. CBS does this as well and they have access to more and other sources, so collaboration does make great sense,’ the alderman explains.
Baldewsingh thinks his city’s ambitions match well with those of CBS: ‘The Hague wants to continue to develop into a resilient city where residents comes first; a city which also takes full advantage of available data. And CBS is striving towards even better utilisation of its own knowledge and information by deploying its data, know-how and expertise to lend support to local governments. In doing so, they are shifting focus from national figures towards figures at regional and local government level. Our collaboration with CBS will deliver a quality boost to our internal research and statistical processes. After all, CBS has the data and the technical capabilities to conduct anonymised microdata analyses, in an environment with strict privacy and security requirements.’
The alderman has found the joint preparatory work carried out by CBS and his municipality to be very good and meticulous. ‘It involves much more, and is not so much about paperwork but about whether this collaboration can also yield actual results. This is why we have decided to shape our partnership concretely by arranging dedicated, shared office space for the Urban Data Centre at City Hall. This is where staff from both sides will get to work together. We have planned out the themes on the joint research agenda carefully so work can commence right after the launch. Topics for discussion and further research by both parties include poverty, demography and housing, education and labour market, and sustainability.’
At the CBS Urban Data Centre launch, The Hague was also awarded platinum certification by the World Council on City Data (WCCD). The WCCD is a global leader in the field of standardised urban metrics and specialises in certification of cities in the areas of quality of life, sustainability and smart data according to the ISO 37120 standard. Baldewsingh: ‘It is vital for the city of The Hague to have its urban data analysed and assessed internationally. This way, we can benchmark our performance and learn from other cities.’ Other cities already certified include Barcelona, London, Boston, Melbourne, Cape Town, Buenos Aires, Rotterdam and Eindhoven. According to the alderman, certification demonstrates that the city has its data adequately organised. ’It shows that The Hague is an innovative city, continuously working towards improving public services and quality of life in the city.’
CBS Director General Tjark Tjin-A-Tsoi is very pleased with The Hague joining the ranks of cities with Urban Data Centres (Eindhoven, Heerlen, Groningen, Venlo, Zwolle and Leidschendam-Voorburg). ‘Ever since we established our first Urban Data Centre in Eindhoven one year ago, many other cities have shown great interest in the concept. City officials were already paying special attention to the use of data towards policy-making and monitoring of developments; but to set up a data-driven organisation with the necessary expertise and infrastructure all from scratch would have been costly and complicated. And if all Dutch municipalities were to do the same, we run the risk of creating a data infrastructure which is not sufficiently interconnected. At the same time, we must safeguard quality, security and data privacy. CBS has decades of experience in this field and can support municipalities in this respect. CBS furthermore has integrated databases available, which are not accessible to municipal governments. Through this form of collaboration such databases can be mobilised for the purpose of policy making and evaluation at municipal level. ’
Translating to policy
Many organisations find it difficult to translate data into policies, and this applies to municipal governments as well. Tjin-A-Tsoi: ‘Over the past year, we have learned that it is a complex matter, translating a city’s specific needs into concrete projects on the basis of these data analyses. Each city is different and has its own priorities. At each individual Urban Data Centre, we translate the general questions into a working programme. We are definitely developing a knack for this.’ The Urban Data Centre concept has raised wide interest, also abroad; from all over the world cities are approaching CBS for advice. This CBS pilot is also closely related to the World Council on City Data, which is specialised in certification of cities in the areas of quality of life, sustainability and smart data. ‘We can help cities get certified, so they can be included in comparative city benchmarking. Eindhoven, Heerlen and Zwolle have meanwhile received platinum certification, for example. Now CBS’ great efforts have helped The Hague achieve platinum certification as well in a relatively short span of time.’
Plans for the coming year
What are CBS’ plans with respect to the Urban Data Centres for the coming year? ‘First of all, we are looking to consolidate the work programmes running at the existing Urban Data Centres. We are also in discussion with other municipalities which have expressed interest in setting up a UDC together with CBS. Then, we are in dialogue with the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations to see how our Urban Data Centre initiative may be further developed together with us and the Dutch municipalities.’