Leveraging data for transport: It all starts with better coordination

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Leveraging data for transport Data collaboration can improve transport infrastructure investments | image: nito, Shutterstock

Over the last five years, Sustainable Mobility for All compiled transport-related data and indicators to measure the performances of countries’ transport systems and track their progress towards sustainable mobility through the Global Tracking Framework for Transport (GTF). This framework and data lay the ground for a solid policy dialogue with countries, especially when coupled with evidence on the impact of transport investments.

Despite large funding from multilateral development banks for transport, the sector suffers from large informational gaps on the impact of investments and policy changes. To help address this challenge, the World Bank launched the ieConnect for Impact program in 2015. ieConnect for Impact is a collaboration between the Transport Operational and Knowledge group, and the Research group (DIME) to measure the impact of infrastructure investments and policies on local economic activities, land use, carbon emissions, safety, travel times, gender empowerment, and access to basic services.

Last week, the program convened 15 development organizations and agencies (including multi-lateral development banks, and bilaterals) to exchange information on innovations in data and transport and discuss opportunities for cross-agency collaboration.

Much is already underway between and within each agency. For example, the World Bank’s ieConnect for Impact team shared findings from their impact evaluations on development corridors and road safety, using a combination of administrative data, satellite data, and other data types and sources to map out the evolution of road networks. The program produced the first real-time road safety map of Nairobi by developing a machine-learning algorithm that geo-locates and combines data from a wide variety of private sources such as Twitter, Waze, Uber, Google, and Flare. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) introduced the Citywise Smart Platform. The Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the Development Bank of Latin America spoke about the rural and urban mobility observatory for Latin America, while the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) briefed participants about its Transport unit cost database for project screening.

How can we scale up these approaches to create more effective ways for transport practitioners to collect and use data—and, by extension, to Transport-data indicators are essential to evaluate the impact of transport investments but informational gaps still persist. World Bank transport experts discuss resources and tools that transport practitioners can use to improve data collection, collaboration, and gain better insight into the impact of transport investments. We see three major priorities.

  1. Improving cross-institutional collaboration on transport data collection

Data is not always accessible and often sits behind paywalls. Cross-agency collaboration could help bring these datasets together, which in turn could increase their utility and use, the number of questions asked, and possible answers. There are also opportunities to streamline data collection, dissemination, and engagement efforts. Partnerships, collaborations, and coordination around data sharing standards and interoperability could be considered from the start of a project. 

  1. Mobilizing more resources to support transport data innovations

Data has a cost. While the private sector cannot be forced to open up their data, cities have different mechanisms to engage and encourage private stakeholders to share information. For example, the government authorizations that companies need to operate transport services could be made contingent upon data sharing (with specific provisions to exclude personally identifiable information). Beyond changing norms, more effective mechanisms for financing data collection in transport projects are needed to support country data systems and products on a larger scale.

  1. Building client capacity to generate and use data

Data has value to the extent it is effectively used for public decision-making in transport. Building country capacity to generate and use this data is essential, but not enough: we need continuity of the data systems and projects in order to address transport system problems in the source countries and cities.  Countries will also need support to ensure that data is safely stored and used, and prevent cybersecurity issues.

In conclusion, the future of transport and mobility will be data informed. And yet, we have under-invested in transport data. We need to think about how to best leverage individual data efforts and scale up some of those projects and initiatives within and across countries.  In some areas, there are benefits to a more systematic and coordinated approach among institutions in terms of data generation, collection, and analysis. The COVID crisis has challenged many assumptions about how we measure and assess progress on sustainable mobility. This meeting was the first in a series planned over the next we months to discuss collaboration and dialogue on the generation, analysis, and use of innovative data for effective transport policy in this new environment. Organizations interested in attending upcoming sessions can contact us at ieConnectforimpact@worldbank.org.


Nancy Vandycke

Program Manager, Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All) and Lead Economist, World Bank

Arianna Legovini

Director, Development Impact Evaluation, World Bank

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