Trust in data sharing will make walkable neighbourhoods a reality

Darmstadt is a city in the Bundesland (federal state) of Hesse in Germany, located in the southern part of the Rhine Main Area.
© Editor77

To achieve a walkable neighbourhood or 15-minute neighbourhood, we need to build trust in data sharing – but the general public are still sceptical

You may have already heard of the concept of the 15-minute neighbourhoods, sometimes also called 20-minute cities or places. It is the transformation of urban spaces that provides residents access to most, if not all, of their needs within a short walk or bike ride from their home.

What is a walkable neighbourhood?

It is not a new idea, and it can be attributed to Clarence Perry, who was an American urban planner. He coined the phrase ‘a walkable neighbourhood’ in 1929.

The last few years have revealed weaknesses in urban planning, particularly with the restricted radius of movement caused by the pandemic, highlighting the increased importance of the quality of our walkable neighbourhoods.

The goal of 15-minute neighbourhoods is to create a more environmentally friendly, socially inclusive development

The goal of walkable neighbourhoods or 15-minute neighbourhoods is to create a more environmentally friendly, socially inclusive development, which should make urban life more agile, healthy, and flexible for those who inhabit it. Another benefit includes the reduction of carbon emissions by putting everything that citizens should need within a 15-minute walk. And of course, this in turn promotes health and wellbeing. It also supports local businesses – again, something that many of us have started to appreciate more following the pandemic.

This concept is one example of the many ways we could improve our local communities with the use of data and personalisation. If we have any hope of creating a better citizen experience, we need to understand the whole picture of how they use their walkable neighbourhood, how they move, and how we can personalise their services to improve this.

It is inevitable we will need data – and lots of it. But understandably the public are sceptical of their data being tracked. So, for this to work, councils need to start building trust in how we collect and use data.

Terraced housing occupied by students in Birmingham UK
© Peter Mansbridge

How personalisation works

Councils hold a wealth of information within graphical information systems or GIS, internal databases, spreadsheets, and lots of unstructured data.

For example, take Susan. Through the way she uses the council website, we know that her interests are activities for children and healthy living. In other words, she likes to keep fit and is a regular user of a local leisure centre.

We also know that she cares about the environment as she is signed up to receive email bulletins from the council about these subjects. When we view her personalised homepage, we can see the main navigation is about schools and nurseries, sports, and leisure.

Through this we can understand more about Susan and how to make her citizen experience much better. We can use this understanding to highlight events she might be interested in and services she is more likely to use. We can also send her information via newsletters on topics she cares about and are relevant to her.

Data security and management

However, for a truly personalised experience to work, you need to build trust and transparency first. Customers expect their data to remain private and secure, but at the same time, they desire a personalised and contextualised experience.

Data ethics are important to consider as part of this. The tension between personalised experiences and privacy is increasing. A data driven approach to designing personalised experiences benefits the customer and the organisation, but if something goes wrong, it risks violating the customer’s trust.

Providing a personalised experience requires organisations to walk a fine line between using data to enhance the experience and not being invasive. For example, customer service agents should use judgement during live interactions to ensure customer information they leverage, such as prior contract history, does not cross that line.

It is imperative to be cautious about how you use and manage customer data so as not to lose trust. There are ways you can effectively manage customer data. Be explicit with consent management and preference settings to give customers better control over how their data is used and delineate the settings by functional area. For example, marketing preferences are not used in face-to-face or telephone transactions.

Prioritise transparency and privacy settings so that customers know why and how you intend to use and manage their personal information. Communicate proactively about preference and consent and how it can improve your service offering.

Make ethics a core component of your data management strategy by creating data use cases based on the value or benefit brought to the customer, not just the organisation.

Painting a picture with data

Today, citizens are selective in the information and services they choose to trust. A council’s website is one of those trusted services, and if we are going to create new and innovative communities, data is our greatest tool.

By following these guidelines, councils who are planning to start implementing personalisation can begin to ethically monitor the behaviour of their users and improve their most used services as a result.

Citizen engagement platforms play a key role in this, and one that enables councils to surface data about a citizen to that citizen via a single account login on the council website is preferable. It is tools like these that give citizens a single view of the data a council holds about them, meaning they know exactly how their data is used – promoting transparency and putting citizens first.


This piece was written and provided by Matt Culpin, Product Director at IEG4


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