Cities Performance Leaves Way Too Much Data Off The Table

If we can’t manage what we don’t measure, then crucial gaps in the indicators proposed for the federal government’s National Cities Performance Framework plunge its effectiveness into doubt as a tool for improving the resilience and sustainability of our cities and the people that live and work in them.

The Interim report, released this week, outlines the framework and data-driven indicators that will be made available as a digital dashboard for the public and others to assess cities across economic, social and environmental aspects.

city-performance
Photo: article supplied

It aims to show how well cities are performing against the Smart City policy priorities of jobs and skills; infrastructure and investment; liveability and sustainability; innovation and digital; governance, planning and regulation; and housing.

These have been converted into 41 proposed indicators that will be being applied to 21 of Australia’s largest cities and also Western Sydney.

Gaps in the architecture

However, even the Property Council of Australia, which has hailed it as “vital policy architecture” has noted that there are some gaps in the data it proposed to deliver.

A proposed indicator that would reveal the ratio of population growth to dwellings constructed has not been included “due to lack of data”.

“We believe there is one area of potential improvement for the Interim Framework and that relates to housing affordability and the ability to properly assess housing supply,” Ken Morrison PCA chief executive said.

“The big gap is the lack of data on housing supply which is a critical part of the housing affordability equation, and we again call on the Turnbull Government to reinstate the National Housing Supply Council to plug this gap.”

Ironically, news broke this week that 2016 Census data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows there are around one million empty dwellings in Australia, and that in Sydney close to one in five dwellings are empty. Sounds like available data to us.

And here’s another one – while the data will include air quality in terms of particulates in the air, and overall carbon emissions, a proposed indicator on carbon emissions from specific sectors was also left out due to… lack of available data.

The Fifth Estate is seeing something of a pattern there that looks scarily like the Trump approach. Don’t measure it, don’t monitor it and then you can wilfully refuse to manage it.

Mr Morrison said that the framework brings “some rigour” to the question of whether our “big and small cities are successful or not”.

“What gets measured gets done – and this framework will assist policy makers in our big cities as well as our smaller cities and regional centres.”

Policy makers it may not assist terribly well are those concerned about vulnerability to natural disasters.

This article was originally published by The Fifth Estate.

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Big data is adding a whole new dimension to public spaces

Most of us encounter public spaces in our daily lives: whether it’s physical space (a sidewalk, a bench, or a road), a visual element (a panorama, a cityscape) or a mode of transport (bus, train or bike share). But over the past two decades, digital technologies such as smart phones and the internet of things are adding extra layers of information to our public spaces, and transforming the urban environment.

Traditionally, public spaces have been carefully designed by urban planners and architects, and managed by private companies or public bodies. The theory goes that people’s attention and behaviour in public spaces can be guided by the way that architects plan the built environment. Take, for example, Leicester Square in London: the layout of green areas, pathways and benches makes it clear where people are supposed to walk, sit down and look at the natural elements. The public space is a given, which people receive and use within the terms and guidelines provided.

While these ideas are still relevant today, information is now another key material in public spaces. It changes the way that people experience the city. Uber shows us the position of its closest drivers, even when they’re out of sight; route-finding apps such as Google Maps helps us to navigate through unfamiliar territory; Pokemon Go places otherworldly creatures on the pavement right before our eyes.

But we’re not just receiving information – we’re also generating it. Whether you’re “liking” something on Facebook, searching Google, shopping online, or even exchanging an email address for Wi-Fi access; all of the data created by these actions are collected, stored, managed, analysed and brokered to generate monetary value.

Originally Published by The Conversation continue reading here.