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How new data can help the North design and deliver better cities for its people

Raj Mukherjee | 11 Jul 2017 | Comments

Data is the lifeblood of countries, cities and organisations and is fast becoming a vital component of improving citizen experiences in everyday life. More than ever people are demanding faster, slicker and improved ways of navigating their city, whether this is focused on the accuracy of a bus timetable, the first experience of a new public space in the city centre, through to the investment in new offices and shops, or the speed of laying fibre optic broadband - improving the city’s connection to the rest of the world.

Northern England has some great cities and it’s vital they keep pace with other major cities globally which are already taking advantage of the value that can be gathered from extracting insights across numerous public and private data streams, helping city leaders to positively influence the local economy and future growth. City residents won’t realise just how much data, in some cases given off directly by their hand-held devices, is shaping the immediate city decisions around them.

Here are three ways data can help to shape the success of our cities, including those in the Northern Powerhouse, both now and in the future.

Planning

All business and investment decisions are based on a range of evidence points. For cities in the Northern Powerhouse new data streams from sensors, cameras and mobile phones could generate, or are already generating, more detailed insight into the way people are using spaces, visiting shops, transport services and entertainment venues. This intelligence is being used to influence better urban planning decision making and in turn an improved end-user experience of the city.

Infrastructure

The National Needs Assessment for Infrastructure, published in 2016, recognised the positive impact that technology, and particularly data, will have on extending the life-cycle of existing transport assets and reducing congestion and pollution. Congestion on the road and on trains wastes time, increases pollution and is costly to society. Commuters in the north of England waste more than 50 hours a year in traffic jams; that’s the equivalent of more than a full week of work. Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, has already pledged to develop a new digital infrastructure plan as the basis for establishing Manchester as a world-leading ‘Digital City-Region’ and we would like to see other cities across the Northern Powerhouse make similar sorts of commitments.

Inclusive growth

For many cities data is being used to enable the growth of new sectors. These indicators highlight vitally important trends and provide city leaders, along with designers, architects, engineers and developers, with insights that ensure we are creating cities that enable these new emerging industries to flourish. Crucially the data can help city leaders make decisions that balance economic benefits against health and social measures; to create strategies that will encourage growth that will benefit the whole of society.

These are just three of the many areas where data can provide tangible evidence points that enable city leaders and urban designers to visualise options and then make complex decisions which enable them to create truly liveable and vibrant cities. It’s an extremely exciting field and we are at the beginning of what is possible.