With rapid urban growth, there is an unprecedented pressure on local governments to provide services and infrastructure in a context of high visibility and rising demands for accountability and transparency. These complex challenges are driving demand for a more comprehensive knowledge of city performance to inform decision-making and lead to new and innovative processes. Standardized, globally comparable data is a prerequisite for effective measuring and monitoring, and can make a key contribution to municipal governance. The measuring and monitoring of municipal governance is often hampered by data that tends to be scarce and uneven, using different methodologies and definitions that prevent meaningful comparisons. The International Standard ISO 37120 represents a critical paradigm shift when it comes to city data, creating indicators that address the frequent limitations of municipal data. With standardized indicators, cities and citizens can assess municipal performance, measure progress over time, and draw comparative lessons from other cities, both locally and globally. Data on government services can give residents a better understanding of city management and performance, enabling citizen participation in governance that can be instrumental in orienting policy-making towards community needs. Standardized indicators can therefore contribute to more effective governance and delivery of services, and help guide policy, planning, and management across multiple sectors and stakeholders.
Patricia McCarney is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Global Cities Institute at the University of Toronto, Canada and President and CEO of the World Council on City Data. McCarney received her Ph.D. in international development and planning from MIT. She has served as Associate Vice President for International Research and Development at the University of Toronto. Before joining the University of Toronto, McCarney worked as a professional staff member in a number of international agencies, including the World Bank in Washington, and UN-Habitat in Nairobi. In addition to seven books, McCarney is the author of numerous articles and papers on cities, governance, and urbanism. She heads the work at ISO on city metrics, developing the first ISO standards for city indicators on sustainable cities (ISO 37120) as well as two new standards on resilient and smart cities.