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  • Writer's pictureTunisha Mehta

Urbanisation in Times of Data Surge

Figure-Ground Analysis for The City of Patna, India thriving on the southern banks of River Ganga; Data and Urbanisation

Amidst this overwhelming data deluge in recent years, there is an online dialogue going on whether data should be likened to oil, for its value, or to sunlight, for it underlies everything. Or perhaps infrastructure for it employs millions of people globally. Our standpoint positions it to none and all. Because if it were like oil, it would be tradable. What might be held as "data exhausts" by some organisations might be digital gold for others. There is no true value of data, rendering it untradable. Strict privacy laws and cross-border security limit its collation to sunlight. If infrastructure, it needs substantial public investment and new institutions to manage them. From antiquity to modern times, civilisations have always been a product of information management. With this data powered by advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, the possibilities are endless. So, what does it hold for the real-estate markets? For starters, it can help make planning more effective, optimise energy consumption, identify new customers, make better investment decisions and with better pricing and valuation. Digitisation is a force that's changing the competitive landscape across many industries. It enables the delivery of value with evidence-based solutions rather than hunches.

Emerging big data and open data have presented new opportunities for urban analysis and its research applications. Pearl River Delta, China; Portland, Oregon; Vancouver, Canada; and London, UK are a few of many cities to have applied this technology for better solutions in the context of urban planning and development. Arguably the growth of most cities in the Global South is organic, but the trends of this growth can be predicted well in advance to prepare those areas for settlements. The Digital Twin, with its behavioural simulations and AI capabilities, is a powerful computational tool that promises cities better governance, business administration and civic participation. It not only helps better prepare for future pandemic and disaster situations but also facilitates consistent collaboration across multiple sectors. Amaravati, the new capital of Andhra Pradesh in India, will be born as a Digital Twin, the first entire city to do that in the world. Everything that happens in Amaravati can be conjectured in advance to optimise outcomes and adjust it on the fly to keep pace with the change.

A Digital Twin for Amaravati, India by Cityzenith

Data scientists have often debated upon whether they need the right research question to look for the right dataset in its immensity or whether they need the right dataset to ask the right question. Well, in both cases, there is insufficient availability of data and scholarship text for Patna, the Capital city of Bihar. This dearth often deters researchers and practitioners from offering meaningful insights upon the development of this city. While working on the available datasets, we identified this institutional void as one that's hindering the city's positive growth. Hence, we situate our interest in a collaborative effort to fill out this void and conceive Project Patna. Moving towards a distant vision of existing Indian cities adopting urban resilience and spatial justice, in the long run, seems plausible with the germination of this effort as its first step. Thus, can I conclude- not just the black stuff or the light stuff, data is total stuff?

If you believe in the cause and would like to volunteer, please reach out for collaboration to

We are currently in the team-building phase of Project Patna.

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