Urban Data Centres

There is a growing realisation among public authorities in the Netherlands that their work should be data-driven. This trend is seen at many different levels, ranging from national to local. ‘Evidence-based’ working has become a focal point for a growing number of municipalities, for instance. This is the reason why they seek collaboration with Statistics Netherlands (CBS).

This collaboration is made possible through ‘CBS Urban Data Centres’ (UDCs). Within an Urban Data Centre, a municipality combines its strengths with those of CBS. Core expertise available at CBS on e.g. data infrastructure, data processing and privacy protection is paired with local policy issues by committing (new) data sources towards finding policy solutions and laying bare the local implications of societal developments. This is how local authorities, businesses and institutions improve their understanding of actual developments within the municipality.

Local assignment

In actual practice, two specialists from CBS are assigned to a municipality; an account manager and a colleague who works on the operational side. They work together with a number of municipal employees to identify and implement new projects. The working methodology is different for each Urban Data Centre. Services provided must be in line with the structure and services of the municipality. Whereas some municipalities have their own research unit for each policy department, others work with a single research cluster.

Themes

So far, the focal themes of the CBS UDCs have been found in such areas as the local economy, mobility, inhabitants and their incomes, energy and transport and logistics.
The way these themes are addressed may vary. For some time now, Dutch municipalities have been responsible for local health care and youth care services. As such, they need to form an image of the vulnerable groups in local society. Other requested information covers themes such as poverty, housing construction, traffic and transport, industrial sites, and hotels, restaurants and cafes in the downtown area.

Various types of data centres have so far emerged in the Netherlands, ranging from Urban Data Centres in cities to a specially established Rural Data Centre (RDC) for rural municipalities which have teamed up. In January 2018, the very first Provincial Data Centre was launched in Limburg: the Brightlands Data Centre. The UDC concept has attracted wide international interest. CBS is often seen explaining at international events what the cooperation within UDCs means.