Urban lifestyle provides a wealth of information

/ Author: Miriam van der Sangen
How can life rhythms of urban residents be used in analysing and solving urban issues, e.g. security or social cohesion? This topic was researched recently by TU Delft in collaboration with the municipalities of The Hague, Helmond, Zaanstad, Amsterdam, Zoetermeer and Rotterdam. Hedwig Miessen, CBS/Urban Data Centre programme manager at the municipality of The Hague and one of the initiators of the City Rhythm project, was closely involved in this research and explains its importance.

Poverty and home assistance

The city of The Hague has a wealth of municipal information at its disposal, but more data are needed to analyse social issues and to observe the effects of municipal policies. Miessen: ‘The municipality has its own team of researchers, who have already studied many issues in recent years. They are constantly monitoring developments in the city and the community. Since establishing the CBS/Urban Data Centre The Hague last September, we have been able to combine our data with those of CBS. The aim is to broaden, deepen and improve local data by linking municipal data with CBS data. One example is a study on how many children are living in poverty in our city. Thanks to CBS data, we now have more in-depth knowledge about the families these children are growing up in. We have also used CBS income data to review the use of home assistance at certain income levels.’ This is always about observing trends and never about individual cases.

To measure is to learn

Miessen sees a clear trend at the municipality of The Hague to become even more data-driven. ‘This is the ambition of both the municipal government and the researchers. Together, we want to explore how we can address specific issues by using local data, working with organisations like CBS but also TU Delft. After all, there are still many things we need to work out together. I would actually like to change the motto ‘to measure is to know’ into ‘to measure is to learn’. We discuss with other cities whether they are having similar social problems and we try to learn from each other. A good example of this is the City Rhythm project. It demonstrates how an analysis of local resident lifestyles could help policymaking which is aimed at improving safety perceptions and social cohesion. The Hague, Helmond, Zaanstad, Amsterdam, Zoetermeer and Rotterdam were all involved in this research project.’

Life Rhythms

In the City Rhythm study, the city of The Hague examined possible ways of helping new residents settle into their neighbourhood, for instance refugees. The daily rhythms the various cultures there have in common were analysed. The conclusion: interventions involving children (playing outside, sporting and eating together) are most likely to succeed in making it easier for people to integrate in a neighbourhood. Another example can be found in the Amsterdam Southeast district. Single mothers in this district often do not make use of local public services because they need to improvise all the time with their daily schedules. To solve this problem, the district - in particular the public meeting places - could focus more on the daily rhythm of the single mother.

‘It is still important to handle data very carefully to avoid negative segmentation and profiling’

City Rhythm Data Model

Miessen: ‘The City Rhythm project involved one and a half years of rhythm analysis around social themes in neighbourhoods. Based on this, TU Delft created a City Rhythm Data Model (CRDM). Most of the data came from CBS. The data model is now being used to map the theme ‘security’, but this model offers much more potential.’ According to Miessen, the use of CBS data is fairly complex. ‘It is with good reason that in the book ‘City Rhythm, logbook of an exploration’ , an entire chapter was devoted to the data model and the obstacles faced by the researchers while they used this data. Therefore, it is extremely important that students are trained to interpret data properly. You can only understand dashboards when you know the context.’ Therefore, Miessen strongly advocates a chair in City Rhythm, to be endowed by the municipality of The Hague. Its feasibility is currently being investigated. She furthermore holds the opinion that even more attention should be paid to the standardisation of ICT, definitions and organisations. The programme manager also points out ethical aspects of the use of data to solve social problems in the city. ‘We have already taken many positive steps, but it is still important to handle data very carefully to avoid negative segementation and profiling. After all, the mission of our CBS Urban Data Centre/The Hague is responsible innovation.’

What is the CBS Urban Data Centre/The Hague?
As of September 2017, the municipality of The Hague and CBS collaborate in the CBS Urban Data Centre. The aim: to make even better use of available data and use data for policy development. By establishing links between municipal and CBS data, both parties hope to find solutions to social issues such as poverty and changes in health care. The municipality of The Hague has already carried out several studies together with CBS. One such study is on local household incomes.