CASE: Data Platform for Sustainable Urban Development
12. August 2019
Ivan Bandura
Policy Mission

The more we know, the better decisions we take. This is as true when it comes to urban development as in any other case. A single decision in urban development, from buildings to infrastructure, can have a massive impact on the ecosystem in our cities. Thus, it is crucial that these decisions are made on an informed basis.  Companies, organisations and institutions collect and store massive amounts of data about the behaviour of people living in cities. These data are usually a by-product of their primary field of operation and are seldom put together and shared withothers to improve cross-sector development of new services, products or systems.

The UNDP country office of Moldova, together with the Chisinau City Municipality, hosts a data platform for sustainable urban development. The purpose of the platform is to pool available data withprimary anonymized data from businesses (big data) and thick data (micro narratives from stakeholders, for instance), which can be accessed and used for urban development and municipal decision-making.

How platform-way-of-working will tackle the issue/challenge?

It makes sense to apply the platform-way-of-working in developing and running this digital platform, since it focuses on activating a range of stakeholders and actors, who would not normally work together. Establishing the platform as a source for matchmaking, events and sharing of data is expected to attract and identify new partners, generating even more data for the users.

Difference between project based approach and platform approach applied?

By focusing on building an ecosystem of users, partners and suppliers, the platform provides the possibility for scaling organically, allowing a vast variety of different value propositions to exist side by side and stakeholders to mutually benefit from each other’s knowledge. Data can be translated and interpreted according to the needs of each individual stakeholder. 

As opposed to a more conventional setup with only one or a few providers of data targeting  specific needs within a limited group of stakeholders, this platform will pool data from several different sources, thus providing a much broader perspective and more complex knowledge base.

What is difficult?
It is challenging to monetize data platforms such as these. Companies and institutions own valuable data about the behaviour of their users and stakeholders, but have no idea of how to turn it into actual business and revenue. Still, they are hesitant to share these data with external parties.
This digital platform will need to have a clear value proposition for each supplier of data, if they are to provide the data openly and free of charge. Building the business model around the platform and communicating a rather non-specific value proposition to gain access to the data, is hard.

In addition, even if the initiator of this platform is a non-profit organisation, it requires funds to develop, run and scale it. It’s all about reaching a critical mass of data and users to provide proof of concept in order for data providers and companies to commit their time and resources to the project.

Status and next step
The UNDP country office of Moldova and municipality of Chisinau are applying for seed funding to establish the platform and conduct a two-year pilot phase. The results and cases of this pilot phase will be used to communicate and define a strong and clear value proposition for potential new partners and collaborators. At the time of writing, a working prototype is nearly ready to begin testing, by which new insights and knowledge addressing the difficulties outlined above can be obtained.