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The use of indicators and evidence

An illustration on a data-driven city
© koctia (via Envato Elements)

Creating ‘liveable’ communities that are healthy and sustainable is an aspiration of policymakers globally. Indicators are being used at the national, state and local level to compare the liveability of cities and regions.

There are many examples of how indicators and evidence can be used to plan healthy cities. Cities can develop targets that measure progress and monitor performance. Different sets of data can also be collated and displayed via dashboards, that can indicate progress and success, and show how inter-sectoral elements might combine to produce new outcomes.

Image by: Justin Henry Creative Commons Licence on Flickr

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The SDGs, as mentioned on step 2.2, are an example of international collaboration brought together through the United Nations, to form a collection of inter-related global goals, for achieving sustainable development. All of the SDGs have targets that help countries and cities to understand their progress towards the Goals.

Sustainable cities and communities targets

Sustainable Development Goal 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities has 10 separate targets measured by a number of different indicators, focusing on a broad range of issues. These are not all broad indicators. Some target measures are very specific to different population groups, in order to address inclusiveness. For example, Target 11.7 states:

by 2030, provision of universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible green and public spaces, particularly for women and children, older persons and persons with a disability.

This is a great target for supporting the elderly, people with disabilities, women and children with city planning and design. Alongside this target are matching indicators, to measure the share of built-up areas that are open space for public use, by sex, age and people with a disability.

City dashboards

The application of indicators is also very common in the use of city dashboards. City dashboards are a visual way to represent a city’s performance on strategic policy areas. A city dashboard shows:

  • how a city is performing
  • the city’s long-term goals
  • how the city is tracking and measuring those goals to ensure they are achieved.

City dashboards are used to bring together citizens, decision-makers, governments, academics and industry so they understand the people who live in a city and the major social, economic and environmental conditions of the cities. Dashboards make public data freely available, in ways that can influence public perception and behaviour around sustainability and liveability. Dashboards can also be used to show how cities compare across different indicators.

City dashboard – Amsterdam

Amsterdam Smart City Dashboard displays the current state of the city. It is based on the three key elements – energy transition, living environment and transport. Showing the various data within these elements instantly provides the city with valuable information.

Watch the Amsterdam Smart City Dashboard video to see an overview of how dashboards are used to improve efficiency.

City dashboard indicators

The public open space target provides a good example of an indicator that might be included in a city dashboard and can be calculated at a city level, or detailed at a neighbourhood level, as we do in Australia with the liveability indicators included in the Australian Urban Observatory.

The range of indicators included in city dashboards can range from:

  • housing affordability
  • public transport
  • access to public open space
  • demographics such as proportion of single parent households, immigrant ratio, population size, gender or age.

All of these factors influence access to services in a city and the mobility of people across cities and neighbourhoods. Such factors are also relevant to current conversations about 15 minute cities in Paris or 30 minute cities across the world.

This research shows how 15-minutes urban accessibility shapes human mobility in Barcelona. The researchers use mobile phone, census, and volunteered geographical data to measure geographic variations in the relationship between origin-destination flows and local urban accessibility. One of their most interesting findings is how unequal access to food outlets was the most limiting factor of urban mobility across neighbourhoods.

Image by: Joey Zanotti, Creative Commons Licence on Flickr
© RMIT Europe and EIT Urban Mobility
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Urban Mobility for Liveability

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