Progressive use of digital data has been crucial to effective Covid-19 responses at the household, business, and city levels. How are cities enhancing their capacity to improve data-enabled tools and strategies, and reflect on what has worked?

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, rapid digital transitions have been a key factor in how cities have sought to mitigate the impact of the crisis. Municipalities have rapidly transitioned to remote working and re-established governance mechanisms online. In Tel Aviv-Yafo, the city leveraged its tech start-up muscle of Tel Aviv to develop new digital tools that can, for example, improve remote working. In Louisville, the transition to remote working enabled the city to make significant changes to answering help lines; they improved call answer times from an average of 20 minutes to eight seconds, and call abandonment rates from 20% to 0.5%.

Safe Entry by GovTech Singapore, SG United 

Learning from Wuhan, China, Pune, India, used spatial mapping and analysis to track and respond to dynamic changes in Covid-19 cases across wards and sub-wards, with data being generated through over 800,000 households surveyed in hotspot areas. In Singapore, vulnerable seniors who are not digitally connected received Trace Together tokens which are convenient, light, easy to use and do not need charging or a mobile connection. Singapore also deploys Safe Entry — a national digital check-in system — to enter venues to enable contact tracing. 

In the context of Covid-19, the importance of digital inclusion has become crucial since technological innovation is emerging as a key response to the crisis. In Barcelona, Spain, the city is targeting the digital divide by ensuring access to internet and digital services as part of dignified living conditions and equal opportunities. The city is investing $600,000 USD to enhance the digital capabilities of local retail and restaurants and supporting SMEs to produce their own digitalization plan. The municipality of Salvador, Brazil, launched a call for challenges related to women and technology. It intends to select small businesses led by women that promote digital inclusion and the use of new technology to tackle social problems in the city. And in Bangkok, Thailand, a community and interactive platform is exchanging employment and business opportunities, with a focus on small and local businesses. 

In Dallas, US, a Health Equity Impact Assessment Tool was developed which mapped postal (zip) codes against social determinants of health data — race and ethnicity, poverty, home ownership, age and socio-economic vulnerability — which highlighted overlaps between these vulnerability indicators with the highest rates of Covid-19 positive cases. The results of this assessment will be used to track progress through recovery across the four priority areas: digital divide; housing stability; equitable health access; and financial security. 

Amidst the lockdown measures imposed in the Dominican Republic during Covid-19, vulnerable populations were faced with multiple challenges including poor information about the government’s “Stay at Home” policy and low levels of banking access for the most vulnerable citizens due to irregular banking hours and difficulty leaving houses during lockdown. In response, and in order to enable access to a state subsidy aimed at the most vulnerable, the Dominican Republic’s state bank Banreservas and Visa collaborated to explore an efficient way to distribute emergency funds to more than 770,000 vulnerable families, who were restricted inside their houses due to the strict quarantine measures. 

Further resources: 

Practice: Hear from Metropolitan Coordination Institution in Guadalajara on different ways of utilizing data, technology and partnerships with academics to empower decision makers to take sensible decisions from Cities on the Frontline #17 Metropolitan Resilience.

Lesson: Smart and Resilient Digital Infrastructure Rotterdam. Rotterdam has a Smart City program which aims to provide fiber optic cables and 5G for citizens and SMEs. The goal of this program is to close the digital divide and support vulnerable communities. There are also Covid-specific responses including providing laptops and Wi-Fi routers for students at home, mobile data subscriptions for vulnerable women and launching crowd monitoring services. 

Opinion: The role of technology in building more resilient cities. How data insights are critical to help ensure cities adjust and recover by alternative means as quickly as possible, and plan smarter for the future. 

How to: Toolkit for Resilient Recovery – Recovery Resilience Assessment. Combining data driven process and perception of various stakeholders at different levels for recovery planning. 

Lesson: Stories, data, and plans: Preparing for the next pandemic. Communities should invest in structures and stories to keep the collective memory of past disasters alive and set up systems in advance for quick and efficient data sharing. 

Lesson: Four strategies for helping women in fragile settings succeed in the digital economy The Click-On Kaduna program in Nigeria offers valuable insights for women in fragile settings to succeed in the digital economy. 

Practice: Concept Paper | Resilient Cities Shaping a Digital World. The first steps toward understanding the challenges and opportunities of Latin American and Caribbean cities through a digital lens — to be better able to take more informed resilient actions and start imagining digital strategies to strengthen resilience.