Not more data but better data sharing can help countries achieve sustainable mobility

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Technology has impacted every sphere of the global development landscape. In the transport sector, the proliferation of emerging technologies and internet-enabled services have made it easier for individuals, public and private stakeholders to collect data. If adequately managed, shared, and utilized, data will transform the future of mobility.
A doctor working in a network cloud data on blurred background. Photo credit: Natali _ Mis/Shutterstock

Technology has impacted every sphere of the global development landscape. In the transport sector, the proliferation of emerging technologies and internet-enabled services have made it easier for individuals, public and private stakeholders to collect data. If adequately managed, shared, and utilized, data will transform the future of mobility. 

A new study, Sustainable Mobility: Policy Making for Data Sharing, outlines ways to do just that. It provides actionable policy guidance on how country decision-makers can create a just, ethical, secure, and trusted data-sharing ecosystem and harness new opportunities for sustainability. Commissioned by Sustainable Mobility for All (SuM4All) and produced by a group of [60] experts led by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the International Road Federation (IRF), the study highlights the potential of achieving sustainable urban mobility through data sharing between public and private sources. 

“New technologies are generating a lot more data than we used to have,” said Nancy Vandyke, program manager of SuM4All, during the virtual launch of the report last week. “Harvesting this data will help us generate new insights on what is happening in countries but also get a better idea of the outcome of policies and investments so that we can make [better] informed choices,” she said.

The Sustainable Mobility: Policy Making for Data Sharing is the first of five policy papers released under the “GRA in Action series.” Each study will deep-dive into some of the most complex policies in the Global Roadmap of Action Toward Sustainable Mobility (GRA). 

One of the report’s lead authors, Aman Chitkara, Manager Mobility, WBCSD, said publishing the study was a monumental effort taken by experts drawn from 43 organizations spread across different countries. 

“The policy framework gives a global perspective on data sharing at three different levels - municipal, regional, national,” Chitkara said. However, policymakers can adapt the recommendations based on their region’s mobility plan, regulatory environment, economic reality, and digital maturity.

It is all about action on the ground.

“The next step for the SuM4All partnership will be to pilot policy recommendations outlined in the report in countries, like we are now doing in South Africa, and have demonstration projects,” Vandycke said.

A panel discussion moderated by Caitlin Fennessy, Research Director of the International Association of Privacy Professionals, focused on how city governments could implement the recommendations to transform transport and mobility systems. Here are four takeaways from the discussion:

  1. Data holds no value unless shared and put to good use. 

Many countries and cities gather data on mobility, but they do not get the maximum value. 

“The report tells us precisely how to collect, manage, store, and analyze data for a proper policymaking and investment decision,” said Arturo Ardila-Gomez, the Global Lead for Urban Mobility and Lead Transport Economist at the World Bank. 

For example, in South Africa, the World Bank, through the SuM4All initiative, has partnered with the Development Bank of Southern Africa to evaluate South Africa’s performance towards achieving a transport and mobility system that is universal, safe, efficient, and green. Using the GRA tool, the country will explore its policy options and develop an action plan to address the challenges identified during the diagnostic phase. Sources as diverse as the IRF World Road StatisticsICAO StatisticsUNCTADstatUIC RAILISA, and the World Bank open data portal made their data available for the global good.

  1. The ecosystem must place a premium on trust and privacy. 

Governments and businesses must be transparent about data privacy and security ethics to earn data providers and mobility users’ trust. 

“The role of government is to build trust” Ardila-Gomez said. Trust, he explained, will increase the data-sharing culture among inter-government agencies that rarely interact with one another. 

Different approaches have been used around the world to address the skeptical attitude towards data sharing.  For example, Bogotá has created Ágata, a data analytics agency, to improve how citizens’ information is collected, analyzed, and shared. 

“We collect a lot of data from different sources,” Nicolas Estupinan, the Secretary of Mobility, Bogotá, Colombia. “It is very important to define why we want to share and which piece of data.”

When it comes to privacy, Estupinan said that public institutions were often judged more harshly than the private sector. He explained that while citizens will usually accept social media platform’s terms and conditions without reading the contract in detail, they are often reluctant to share information with government agencies.

  1. Non-transport agencies are essential sources of information. 

Transport stakeholders must not limit themselves to the data from the sector alone. Other sources, such as health and education institutions, should provide data to help improve transportation management. 

The data sharing report also highlighted some emerging good practices that cities and countries can emulate. For example, MoviLab Bogotá, a mobility innovation laboratory, engages different stakeholders from academia, the public sector, and the private sector, to co-create solutions to address mobility challenges using its open data system. 

  1. Tackle resource constraint through a public-private partnership. 

Transport stakeholders can develop smart mobility services and capabilities using technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and big data. These technologies also promote collaboration between multiple stakeholders.

“The public-private partnership will play a critical role where businesses can provide the technology and resources, and cities can provide the infrastructure and support,” said Sanjay Ravi, the General Manager of Automotive Industry, Microsoft Corporation. 

In Sydney, Microsoft is working with Cubic, a transport management platform to drive payment and information technology integration that connects more than 38 million commuters and travelers every day. With proper public-private partnership engagement, Ravi explained, Cubic could continue to create insights that a city can use to address traffic congestion and contribute to a more sustainable environment.



Jennifer Okaima Piette

Communications consultant, World Bank

Yoomin Lee

Junior Professional Officer, Transport GP Global unit

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