CASE STUDY

Digital Mayor's Office: An Integrated Smart City Data Platform

The smart city platform allows for major decision-making based on integrated data from various sources. Photo credit: Seoul Metropolitan Government.
The smart city platform allows for major decision-making based on integrated data from various sources. Photo credit: Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Published: 30 July 2021

A comprehensive data dashboard helps Seoul’s leaders make strategic and timely decisions.

Overview

Seoul, the capital of the Republic of Korea, is a megacity with a population of about 10 million. The scale of operations in the planning and delivery of public services in such a populous urban area can be challenging.

In order to provide efficient services, the Seoul Metropolitan Government—comprised of hundreds of departments and over 50,000 employees—oversees millions of information assets and collects and analyzes vast quantities of data being generated throughout the city such as those from the Transport Operation and Information Service (TOPIS) and Big Data Business Environment Analysis Service.

However, the city government had no comprehensive integration protocol or institutional data coordination framework in place to manage the huge amount of data. The city’s information systems and corresponding data assets were operated and managed in isolation by individual departments and institutions.

To consolidate fragmented data management and streamline the process of data utilization at the leadership level, the Seoul Metropolitan Government developed the Digital Mayor’s Office—an integrated smart city data platform that puts together all available information to produce comprehensive, real-time urban indicators for strategic and timely decision-making.

Challenges

The lack of data integration and institutional coordination had resulted in severe administrative inefficiencies. Important information was not reaching the leadership at a fast pace, resulting in missed opportunities to analyze and utilize data that could have helped the city avoid problems. For example, in cases of natural disasters, any potential delay in information may lead to lapses in coordination for emergency response operations and distorted decision-making.

Context

Seoul’s vision for smart city development aims to “change the lives of citizens” by ensuring it can provide real and tangible benefits for citizens in their day-to-day lives. Its objective is underpinned by five main principles: (i) people first, (ii) service-centered, (iii) inclusive governance, (iv) sustainability, and (v) innovative growth.

To implement this vision, the Seoul Metropolitan Government uses a five-pronged strategy that brings together needs-based planning, utilization of data, public-private partnerships, business engagement, and a platform approach in all of its smart city initiatives. Six intersectional policy areas have been identified as core priorities of Seoul’s smart city development: smart transportation, smart safety, smart environment, smart welfare, smart economy, and smart administration.

Table 1: Smart Seoul Vision

Vision Smart City Seoul to Change the Lives of Citizens
Core Values People first Service-centric Governance Sustainable Innovative growth
Strategy Needs-based planning Leveraging data Public-private partnership Business engagement Platform approach
Policy Areas
Smart transport Smart safety Smart environment Smart welfare Smart economy Smart administration

Solution

In 2017, Seoul launched the Digital Mayor’s Office, a smart city data platform designed to aggregate and visualize comprehensive, multisector urban data to facilitate more accurate and streamlined decision-making. Since its introduction, additional data and functionalities such as public disclosure of information were gradually introduced from 2018 to 2019.

The entire process from basic planning to comprehensive integration took approximately three years, starting from mid-2016 and until mid-2019.

The Digital Mayor’s Office currently integrates about 32 million data items from over 300 different information systems and more than 2,800 real-time CCTV feeds. Data being aggregated and visualized on the platform include real-time, multi-sector indicators on transport, health, safety, environment, socioeconomic and demographic indices, spatial information, culture, and administration. It also tracks public opinion trends, civil complaints, and information on major projects.

The Data Map on the Digital Mayor’s Office shows information from over 300 systems.

Seoul at a glance—as shown on the dashboard above—provides a "panoramic" view of the city's status, including disaster safety, air quality, and financial status. 

The traffic situation dashboard provides real-time traffic information such as bus/subway service, and road and pedestrian accidents.

The data flow and architecture of the Digital Mayor’s Office is based on the Open Data Plaza, a public information disclosure system designed to share administrative data with the public on an open platform.

In this context, the Open Data Plaza provides an operational blueprint for channeling and categorizing data from across multiple databases and systems onto a central database. The Digital Mayor’s Office is built on this pre-existing structure to develop a systematic data curation and management framework, expanding the scope of data to be integrated and introducing real-time data streams.

The system’s data flow architecture serves as the blueprint for channeling and categorizing data from the various databases.

The Digital Mayor’s Office also incorporates video conferencing functionalities and platform accessibility through smartphones and tablets, enabling timely responses to emergency situations without the need for onsite directives.

In addition, a public access version of the Digital Mayor’s Office was launched in 2019. It is available via the web (http://scpm.seoul.go.kr/) and kiosks in public areas. The public access version enhances the transparency of the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s operations and strengthens public participation by providing available information and data necessary to co-create policies and public initiatives.

Results

The Digital Mayor’s Office is an innovative data platform that aggregates an enormous amount of multi-sector, citywide data onto an integrated and interactive platform by sourcing and processing relevant data directly from databases managed by dozens of individual departments.

The platform has been integrated into the day-to-day operational routines of mayoral office duties, and the platform is now essentially the first window for the mayor to gain a comprehensive report of city status on a daily basis.

The system provides several benefits:

  • It enabled cross-visualization and analysis of previously isolated datasets to deliver new strategic insights and more timely responses to evolving situations.
  • It greatly reduced the time and resources required for administrative and bureaucratic processes involved in information gathering, reporting, and decision-making.
  • It laid the foundation to align and reconcile all data operations across the entire city government into a unified strategic direction—paving the way for more standardized development of future information and data initiatives, and a more robust evidence-based approach to policy making.

Lessons

Institutional coordination was vital to the system’s implementation. The Seoul Metropolitan Government was able to establish a clear-cut institutional arrangement among its departments to ensure a unified approach to data management for the Digital Mayor’s Office.

Specific departments were assigned to (i) establish and operationalize a standard data integration framework and (ii) select data and coordinate inputs from other departments.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government’s Big Data Division and City Planning Division formed the core linchpins of the institutional setup. The Big Data Division acted as a technical control tower in charge of overall data integration and system operation with the key task of establishing standard data protocols that would apply to all relevant systems and datasets. The City Planning Division managed the identification and flow of information and datasets required for the Digital Mayor’s Office and coordinated inputs from the various departments.

The institutional setup for platform development and operation establishes a clear arrangement to ensure unified data management.  

Resources

Seoul Metropolitan Government. 2019. Seoul Smart City Platform White Paper: Manual of Smart City for Citizens and Mayor.

Seoul Solution. 2020. Online Lecture Series on Digital Mayor’s Office Platform.

Seoul Urban Solutions Agency.

Ask the Experts

  • Dong Hoon Shin
    Project Advisor, Seoul Urban Solutions Agency

    Dong Hoon Shin specializes in sustainable urban development and the digital transformation of public service delivery. He is actively involved in the design and delivery of technical assistance and advisory for capacity-constrained cities across the globe.

  • Seoul Urban Solutions Agency

    The Seoul Urban Solutions Agency (SUSA) was established by the Seoul Metropolitan Government to share its urban development experiences with other cities seeking to become sustainable and smart urban domains. Through a wide network of partnerships with the public and private sectors within and outside the Republic of Korea, SUSA works to connect and leverage its wide range of knowledge and resources to assist in solving the development challenges of its partner cities. 

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