A Perspective on Data-Driven Transformation in Johannesburg

2 min readMay 6, 2021


With thanks to Peter Magni and Miriam Maina

Fixing Cities

Rapid urbanisation is acknowledged as a cause and manifestation of the world’s current environmental challenges. Creating a more sustainable global future will require creating, transforming, or retrofitting existing urban systems to achieve social, environmental, and economic sustainability.

This blog uses a ‘multiple level perspective’ as a prism through which to view processes of urban transformation. This perspective sees change being initiated in ‘niches’ such as organisations or locales, which must be accepted by the existing ‘regime’ — a local government, or a multinational company. This takes place in the context of wider ‘landscapes’, which include national to trans-national policies and processes; networks such as social movements; and events, such as a pandemic.

OneCity as Niche Enterprise

We view OneCity as a locally attuned (or ‘niche’) enterprise that empowers property investors and developers with analytics and information to unlock development. OneCity consolidates urban data on a single platform, providing city planners and other urban investors with information and analytics to inform investment and development decisions. The tool works with the City’s spatial aspirations and policies which are geared towards driving efficient and sustainable spatial transformation, and creating a compact, polycentric city that is well connected through efficient public transport.

The Johannesburg Context

The City of Johannesburg is the local ‘regime’. As the sphere of government responsible for local planning, the City is responsible for land use planning, management, and coordination of public infrastructure investment at the local level. The City is constantly transforming and shifting it’s policies, processes and legislations, in response to ongoing challenges and mandates. As a regime, the Metropolitan authority is continually changing, and the changes adopted depend on how ‘niche’ solutions such as OneCity correspond to the City’s objectives.

South Africa’s Data Landscape

The ‘landscape’ in which OneCity supports urban transformation includes South Africa’s economic outlook, the dynamics in the property development and investment sectors, and local government spending strategies.

But perhaps the most influential aspect of our landscape is the data environment, and how the city adopts and implements changes in technology, data regulation and administration, in order to develop robust and relevant solutions to urban challenges.

In the last few years, South Africa has shown a positive trend in developing policies seeking to guide the generation, management, and sharing of data for innovation and development. Similar progress is also evident in Metro authorities adopting open-data strategies. We will look at these trends in subsequent blogs.

In the next blog, we will focus on how Johannesburg uses urban data for coordination, strategic visioning and planning, infrastructure investment, and spatial transformation. And we will see where OneCity and other technologies fit into this picture.

  1. City of Johannesburg (2016) Johannesburg Spatial Development Framework, 2040. City of Johannesburg, Johannesburg.




For transparent and data-driven urban transformation