January 21, 2021

Big geographical data and 1,000 million not to miss the digitalization of cities | Trends

Big geographical data and 1,000 million not to miss the digitalization of cities | Trends


Our city councils must address the creation of new models of smart, more efficient, secure and transparent communities to solve the challenges of the vertiginous growth of the urban population, since 80% of Spaniards already reside in cities. The economy and society are more dynamic than ever thanks to its digitalization. Aware of this, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) has developed an ambitious economic support campaign for small populations to deploy their smart cities projects, through initiatives such as the Sustainable and Integrated Urban Development Strategy (EDUSI).

All city councils in Spain have had the opportunity to obtain EDUSI funding (such as Cádiz, which received 15 million euros in 2017), to rehabilitate their city, sensorise the municipality, improve air quality or manage their waste collection more efficiently, among other examples. Funds like these, which in the case of Spain reach 1,000 million euros (in allocations of 5, 10 or 15 million, depending on the population of the municipality) and may be invested until 2023, can be an interesting opportunity for modernization and transformation of their cities regardless of their size.

Large Spanish cities such as Madrid, Valencia and Seville have already developed leading strategies and projects at a European level. In the case of the Madrid City Council, Madrid Mint, a viewer that shows citizens the key statistics of the city and a model of transformation of their management systems of urban public services that impacts on the quality of services provided to citizens to achieve a more sustainable Madrid. Likewise, the City Council of Valencia has implemented a Smart City system integrated in València al Minut, serving information in real time of the city; and, in the case of the Seville City Council, for the first time, it has opted for the geomonitoring in real time of multitudinous events, in this case, of the brotherhoods during the last Holy Week.

But data analysis technology has advanced so much (in terms of scalability and simplicity), that digitization does not have to be a buzzword or a desire away from the possibilities of smaller or medium-sized town halls. For example, Rivas has developed a series of three-dimensional maps that intuitively show in which areas services are provided more intensively, what is their tax burden or what is the relationship between these two factors. This allows, on the one hand, that the managers invest more efficiently their resources and, on the other hand, it offers the citizen a transparent overview of the destination of their taxes.

Following the example of the cities mentioned (Madrid, Rivas, Seville or Valencia), it is worth noting that the analysis of geographic data is an essential element when developing its smart city model and, therefore, an opportunity for those responsible to manage EDUSI resources. All the assets of a city (its urban furniture, security devices, its fleet of vehicles, etc.) has a geographical slope that can be analyzed to deploy them efficiently. Likewise, any citizen process or interaction occurs in one place for a specific reason: chance does not exist in urban planning and management. Therefore, the cadastre (before, on paper and located in a file, now, digital and in the cloud) has been a basic tool in the configuration of our cities for centuries, used to locate assets since the time of the Roman king Servius Tulio.

To be feasible today, due to the great speed with which we generate data, the geographical analysis must be carried out from an integral technological platform that allows to manage the information in a governed and accessible way, to put them at the service of all the interested parties in a way open, as managers, citizens, companies and public bodies. These new platforms act as a facilitator for decision making. Along with the European Union's commitment to connected and open cities, Spanish municipalities, regardless of their size, have a great opportunity not to lose the train of sustainable digitalization and align with the Europe 2020 objectives.

Álvaro Martín Pazos es industry manager executive of Public Administrations of Esri Spain

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