We live on this planet. All of us. As a consequence, we share everything associated with it. Its resources, challenges and mysteries can have an impact on each of us. Likewise, the world’s data, which continues to balloon exponentially, can bring astonishing gains when it’s collected, disclosed and interpreted. As we communally embrace this truth, our power to positively shape the world we share increases in awe-inspiring ways.
A stunning example of this is Habitat III, hosted by the United Nations this past October in Ecuador’s exquisite ancient capital city, Quito. This year’s gathering (convened every twenty years since 1976) welcomed 30,000 individuals from governments, companies, non-profits and academic institutions. Their mission included sharing best practices, celebrating successes and approving a New Urban Agenda born from years of negotiations among United Nations member states.
There was much to discuss, but one of the most spirited topics was centered on the Global Municipal Database. In March of 2016, top officials from UN-Habitat and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy penned an agreement to launch a global fiscal municipal database. While the pilot has focused on reporting and sharing data from a select group of cities in Asia, Latin America and Africa; the ultimate scope is much grander – to facilitate a framework that supports sustained fiscal health of municipal governments around the globe. Envisioned as a comprehensive online resource for city leaders, academics and private sector stakeholders; the solution provides broad access to and transparency of information that propels intervention and protects cities before fiscal stress reaches near unsolvable levels.
At Habitat III, Lourdes German, Director of International and Institute-wide Initiatives at the Lincoln Institute, wowed the crowd with achievements the pilot has yielded so far. Using a dashboard built on Microsoft technologies (Azure, Power Map and Power BI, among others), German demonstrated how the Global Municipal Database tracks vital fiscal indicators including revenue, expenditures, debt-levels and more. The dashboard gives communities the ability to visualize the data and take specific action based on gleaned insights. A bonus; the technologies have numerous functions that are Excel-based, making them immediately accessible to millions who are familiar with this fundamental tool.