The Hague expands on smart city ambition

/ Author: Miriam van der Sangen
© Hollandse Hoogte
On 6 October, Councillor Saskia Bruines from the Municipality of The Hague was the keynote speaker at the Eurostat conference ‘Smart statistics 4 smart cities’ in the Greek city of Kalamata. She used her speech to encourage cities to take advantage of digitisation and to find innovative ways to use data. She mentioned the collaboration between the Municipality of The Hague and Statistics Netherlands (CBS) in the Urban Data Centre (UDC) as an example of this approach.

Smart city

The Municipality of The Hague is making great strides towards becoming a smart city. A year ago, the municipality went into partnership with CBS in the CBS Urban Data Centre/The Hague. Councillor Bruines: ‘The city hall has an office that includes researchers from both organisations. The aim is to make better use of the available data to promote effective policy. At the UDC, data from the Municipality of The Hague can be combined with CBS’s data (without individuals’ details being identifiable, ed.). For example, a year ago the partnership carried out research into poverty. The municipality already knew how many children are living in poverty, but thanks to CBS’s data the city government now has more information about the families in which those children are growing up. That information includes items such as the composition of the household, or whether the parents are in paid work. Another study – which can also be applied to other cities – was conducted into educational disadvantage. We calculated which residential areas are home to children who have a comparatively significant risk of educational disadvantage.’

Regional research questions

The UDC also took on other issues face-on: the scope and frequency of real estate fraud in The Hague, the health of Eastern European migrants, start-ups, the turnover and development of retail centres and the development of an innovation district. The results of this research have now been published. ‘There are currently several other projects in progress. These studies are researching poverty and the outflow from welfare benefits, the liveability of cities, safety, a cohort study among status holders and the impact of online activities of small and medium-sized enterprises.’ In addition to the CBS’s studies in The Hague, the municipality also has the ambition, in cooperation with Leidschendam-Voorburg (which also runs an Urban Data Centre with CBS, ed.), of making its Urban Data Centre available for the study of regional questions. ‘The objective is to stimulate cooperation in the region’, according to Bruines. ‘To that end, regional sessions took place in April and June of this year and yielded five areas of study: mobility, the Environment and Planning Act, the living environment, the social domain and sustainability.’

Added value

Councillor Bruines – whose portfolio includes the smart city – sees clear added value in the collaboration with CBS in the UDC. ‘CBS has good-quality national registers that allow comparisons at a national level. For example, we have used CBS registers on income and education to gain greater insight into the services the municipality offers. Another point where CBS adds value is in our shared, conscientious approach to methodology and privacy.’ Evaluating a year of the collaboration with CBS, Bruines concludes that ‘Looking back, we have a full portfolio of projects, and the UDC has become a successful meeting space for data experts. As well as research, there is room for innovation, brainstorming sessions and the opportunity for experts to share their experiences. That is essential if we want to move from questions of knowledge to questions of policy, and ultimately to research questions. The main obstacles are in the varying definitions of terms such as poverty and liveability. It’s a complex task to nail down all the definitions and to make sure we coordinate our efforts well.’

‘Looking back, we have a full portfolio of projects, and the UDC has become a successful meeting space for data experts’

More sustainable and more liveable

The Eurostat conference ‘Smart statistics 4 smart cities’ attracted international experts from across Europe to discuss how data is used for smart cities. The participants were drawn from national statistical agencies, universities and cities. For CBS, Innovation Manager Barteld Braaksma gave a presentation on CBS’ Urban Data Centre concept. He was particularly impressed by a presentation given by two high-school students from Kalamata who shared their interesting ideas about how to use big data to improve tourism in the city. Which of the other cities’ experiences did The Hague learn from during the conference? ‘The city of Tartu in Estonia uses data obtained from mobile phone operators. This big data is still incomplete, but it offers new insights into aspects such as mobility patterns and the potential for other forms of transportation. The use of this data has enabled the authorities in Tartu to reduce the public transport network from 29 lines to 12, by increasing the frequency of the service on those remaining routes. This has made the city more sustainable and more liveable. Another example is the Greek city of Thessaloniki, where they are starting up a project – in which the university of Wageningen is involved – that will use big data to tackle obesity by identifying and analysing people’s patterns of sleep, eating and exercise. And Rome is aiming to use smart statistics to inform decisions about museum services such as ticket sales, audio tours, exhibitions, events, food and drink sales, etc.’

Innovation in the cities

Finally, the councillor stresses that The Hague is keen to become a model city. ‘The Municipality of The Hague is looking to collaborate with other cities – both within the Netherlands and internationally – that see the importance of using data to make policy decisions. This collaboration will take the form of “The Hague-WCCD (World Council on City Data, ed.) Local Data Hub”. We are promoting the importance of standardised city data according to ISO37120 certification. When cities have standardised data, they can learn from each other’s policy decisions and find solutions to shared problems, which in turn promotes innovation in the cities. That’s why the municipality is continuing to organise round-table meetings, support cities that want to join this network, take part in international data panels and join with other cities to attract more funding for national and European benchmark studies.’