Former Joburg mayor Parks Tau File picture: Paballo Thekiso
Johannesburg – The President United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) Parks Tau has called on cities to use apps to increase efficiencies in the local government sector.

The former mayor of Johannesburg made his remarks when he delivered the keynote address at the three-day Global Cities Summit 2017 hosted by the World Council on City Data on Wednesday night.

Tau, who is also the President of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), said standardised data was key for cities to better analyse, benchmark and share innovative mechanisms to efficiently deliver services and products offered by local governments.

“It is amazing how cities are already using and interfacing with data daily, and this is impacting on city management and our own daily experiences," said Tau.

"Such an example is the several traffic navigation applications in the market that impact on traffic patterns and mobility in cities. These apps change routes based on traffic volumes and thus influence traffic patterns and mobility in cities.”

Speaking to city delegates from about 50 countries across the globe, Tau said there was a need to overlay such use of data and data sources with city planning for better daily traffic management – and many other local government service delivery areas.

“Apps such as these are perfect data sources that can be utilised for trends analysis, monitoring, decision making and even long term planning, among others,” the UCLG president said.

Tau said the proliferation of non-standardised multiple data sources makes decision making by city planners and management a significant challenge.

“This, therefore, presents a greater need for an interface between data sources, city planners and management. Cities need to create standards for data-sets that will build a real global network of local government expertise and fast-track decision making,” explained Tau.

He emphasised that accurate and credible data was necessary to inform investment decisions by both public and private sector investors.

“Accessible and standardised data-sets are critical for investors – particularly in local government. This makes today an opportune time for UCLG to be collaborating with Cities Alliance and Slum Dwellers International in working with Mayors of African cities and urban poor communities on producing a report titled – ‘Know Your City’,” he said.

The Know Your City project is a data collection initiative which is designed to address the urgent need to recognise that informal settlements are part of cities and that the urban poor communities have fundamental rights to be included in the planning and provision of public services.

Tau said, in this case, better knowledge of cities will help local authorities plan better.

“Knowledge starts with numbers, and the know Your City initiative is the first step to improving the service delivery of local governments across the world.”

He said the initiative is expected to see to the availability of data and information for planning, enhanced capacity for slum upgrading for local authorities and communities.

It will also be a point of reference for networking, knowledge management and sharing on slum upgrading, and make a case for established social investment funding for urban poor communities.

Tau said the past two days at the Global Cities Summit have been very insightful in highlighting the need for local governments to take advantage of the opportunities presented by standardised data and create smart cities.

“As UCLG, we are committed to the realisation of the 2030 Global Agenda, particularly the SDGs, the Urban Agenda, the Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction, as well as the Paris Climate agreement. To that end, there is an urgent need for WCCD and UCLG to work together to ensure that our interventions – and the monitoring thereof – is based on credible and real time standardised data,” Tau said.