Big Urban Data: A Strategic Guide for Cities

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Townsend, Anthony;
Zambrano-Barragán, Patricio
Oct 2019
This technical note provides guidance to help municipalities improve city governance through the use of big urban data, which we define as the collective body of information on assets and activities in cities. Our analysis of Latin American and Caribbean cities shows that the application of big urban data is not yet widespread, despite its potential to improve the efficiency and quality of urban services. Furthermore, the significant risks of mismanagement of data initiatives, from politicization to privacy breaches, are not yet well understood within urban governance. We present a new tool, the big urban data maturity model, which empowers cities to assess their competency across five functional areas: open data, data ecosystems, analytics, data-driven decision-making, and digital city services. We also identify specific steps that can be taken to improve governance. Finally, we offer a set of organizational and financial recommendations that can help municipalities institutionalize big urban data practices by following best practices in open data and the participatory coproduction of city services.