The emergence of NBS as a concept to support resilience and sustainability in cities has coincided with the wider transformation around “smart cities”. The provision and effective management of high quality data is a central supporting mechanism for cities to effectively address their urbanisation challenges through NBS and other approaches. In addition to the implementation of adequate ICT solutions, cities need to organise their data management and data governance structures, which can ensure structural integration, availability and quality of data.
Data governance includes all practices and decisions that aim to define roles and responsibilities, decision frameworks and the business rules for data management. Principally, data governance in a city means to manage, regulate and stimulate the provision, use and exchange of datasets from various sources in order to provide a value-added service to all citizens and urban stakeholders. At the municipal level, this involves the provision of open data and dealing with questions about which datasets should be made open and which should not, but also the negotiation with third party data providers that may possess datasets with high relevance to drive a sustainable and resilient development of the city.
Good implementation of a data governance framework can facilitate the implementation, and enhance the sustainability and effectiveness of NBS-based projects. Effective data governance can support the implementation of NBS by:
1. Providing effective monitoring: one of the central challenges associated with NBS is the abstract and diffuse nature of the benefits created. Effective data management and innovative impact assessment mechanisms can make some of the value created through NBS more tangible and provide evidence of the benefits for such interventions.
2. Helping to effectively target NBS: through hyperlocal, real-time understanding of local conditions (e.g., air quality, flood risk areas, urban heating, biodiversity, etc.), cities are better able to effectively target NBS.
3. Improving the city’s ability to respond to changing conditions: particularly in the context of water management, the often-decentralised approach to water management through combined grey and green, mixed-use approaches can be significantly aided by the early warning signals and detailed monitoring that are made possible through effective data governance.
4. Supporting the development of maps for effective green space management: effective data governance is a prerequisite for the development of data based tools (such as satellite imagery or GIS mapping).
5. Supporting citizen participation in the identification, protection and enhancement of ecosystem services: citizen platforms can play an important role in both raising awareness about the services provided by nature, as well as collecting valuable understandings about existing ecosystem services in the city (through, for example, crowd-sourced environmental monitoring).
What can cities do to implement and/or improve their data governance?
Municipalities not only need to organise internal data processes, but also regulate what other stakeholders are allowed to collect and do with public space data. Subsequently, from a holistic city point of view, sustainable data management and governance happens on the following three levels:Inside departments and agencies Across departments and agencies Between municipal departments/agencies and external parties.