Think Tank: Assistance in Strategic and Tactical Planning for Almaty Development 

Goal. Improving the quality of planning for Almaty development, aimed at ensuring sustainable development and turning it into one of the best cities in the world in terms of living standards.

As a Think Tank, the ADC assists the Akimat in strategic (development of program documents) and tactical (development of action plans and roadmaps) planning for Almaty development. 

The quality of management solutions determines the achievement of the final results in social development, urban improvement, favorable environmental situation, etc. Governance is also a key component in achieving the UN SDG. 

Modern urban management is faced with the factors of accelerated and complicated processes in the external and internal environment, increased spread of information technologies and digitalization, transformation of public expectations and requirements for the urban environment and management. Local government is required to be adaptable, flexible, resilient, ready for change and introduction of new tools into traditional work practices, which includes wider use of analytical tools, including big data analytics and adaptation of global best practices.

Objective 1. Provision of the Almaty Akimat with high-quality analytics and assistance in increasing the effectiveness of actions for the city development 

The ADC strives to ensure high-quality sustainable socio-economic development of the city through information-analytical support for the activities of the Almaty Akimat.

The ADC, acting as a modern think tank, will work in the following areas within the framework of this activity:
1)    Development and monitoring of the city's program documents
2)    Analytical support for the activities of the Almaty Akimat 
3)    Development of international cooperation

Development and monitoring of the city's program documents.

The ADC is the main developer, executor and/or co-executor of the city's program documents. 

The ADC has begun work on the development of a system of indicators to be  introduced into the work of the Almaty Akimat departments, and ensuring progress in achieving the UN SDG, and entering the top 70 of the EIU Global Livability Index by 2030. The ADC will monitor progress, study the relevant experience of other cities around the world, make recommendations for improving indicators, etc. This index is integral and reflects the level of development of cities and the living standards in a number of parameters.

Since Almaty's first inclusion in the ranking in 2015, the city's position has not changed significantly, except for a decrease due to the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic (32 new cities were added to the ranking in 2022, which shifted the position of Almaty accordingly).  

*since 2022, the number of cities assessed by the EIU has increased from 140 to 172

Analytical support for the activities of the Almaty Akimat. The ADC will continue to perform research, analytical, methodological, and consulting functions, while maintaining the following existing activities:
•    Collecting, processing, visualizing and analyzing big data;
•    Support, implementation and monitoring of projects;
•    Expert review of projects;
•    Interaction with the population, public communications.

The studies are carried out in accordance with the strategic objectives of the city's development established in the program documents, the operational tasks set by the city administration, as well as the current socio-economic situation in the city.

They include analysis of the local situation, if necessary, consultations with stakeholders, expert and in-depth interviews, study of relevant international experience to identify potentially effective practices and solutions that can be adapted to the Almaty conditions.

As an organization specializing in the study and implementation of the urban development best practices, the ADC promotes the popularization, understanding and consistent introduction of innovative approaches in the local public administration system.

This modernization is implemented through indirect and direct impact. Indirect impact is through the use of modern analytical tools in the work of the ADC and the Almaty Akimat and its departments, including big data analytics at the ADC Situation Center, modern approaches and methods of project management, new practices of working with the population, etc.

Direct impact is through research and recommendations on the introduction of modern approaches and methods of urban management, as well as through training programs, seminars, workshops using various formats, such as simulation games.

Development of international cooperation. Within the framework of the City Development Program implementation, Almaty aims to enter the list of global cities through economic, infrastructural, cultural, educational and social transformation. The ADC associates the achievement of this result with the development of international cooperation and integration of Almaty's development into the global sustainable development agenda. The ADC will carry out activities in the following directions:
•    study and introduction of recommendations for adaptation of the world's best practices, approaches, standards, etc.;
•     development of partnerships with the world's urban development centers; entering the top international communities for urban development, such as C40, Resilient Cities Network, etc.;
•    cooperation with international rating agencies to assess the level of urban development.

Objective 2: Improving the efficiency of management decisions based on the data analytics 

In order to overcome the limitations of traditional approaches to decision-making, government agencies, following the business community, are moving toward the concept of data-driven decision-making.  

At the same time, the ADC understands that big data is not an end in itself, and data alone do not guarantee a positive impact on the city development or high-quality management decisions. 

The ADC will be implementing data analytics from 2023 and plans to achieve the following indicators:

The Sitcenter was created in the ADC as part of implementation of the Digital Kazakhstan state program, as well as the single Smart City concept. 

The goal of the Sitcenter development is to create a single information-analytical space for monitoring, analysis, and planning of socio-economic processes of the city based on reliable and up-to-date data, with subsequent result visualization and generation of reports in the interests of the city administration.

Achievement of this goal includes development of a methodology and description of the requirements for collection and systematization of the Sitcenter data, identification of data types, as well as data collection methods based on detected city problems which can be solved by using data. Key data sources are also identified. 

The data will be used further to provide answers to current research questions or the city problems by using statistical methods, qualitative analysis methods, or a combination of them, on the basis of which recommendations will be made for the development of new policies, procedures, strategies, etc.

In the future, the ADC will play a key role in the city's data analytics as the executor of the Situation Center project, within the framework of which all activities related to the city big data will be carried out. 

The Sitcenter accumulates (also automatically) data from government organizations, departments, private companies and external sources in all areas of the city's life: infrastructure, construction of new facilities, repair works, roads, communications, social facilities, healthcare, education, culture, recreation areas, etc. 

The data will be used for:
•    identification of patterns and correlations in data to justify management decision-making;
•    visualization of the city achievements and problems for residents, guests and businesses with the possibility of obtaining descriptive and predictive analytics;
•    daily monitoring of the city's indicators, including indicators of the transport system (traffic congestion, repairs, blocked roads), housing and communal services (accidents, outages), etc. 
•    involvement of citizens in the city development by providing opportunities to give ratings, likes and dislikes, to leave feedback, ideas, proposals regarding construction projects, communal facilities, etc.
•    facilitating business development by providing geoanalytics on business development opportunities (coverage areas, identification of geographical niches by business category, etc.).
•    use of a ready-made dashboard builder by both analysts and IT specialists, as well as users from the Almaty Akimat without technical education.
•    functioning of the platform, which will allow, based on big data analysis, to identify problematic issues of communities/clusters and to further search for solutions, to conduct joint work that combines the opinions, data and decisions of city residents, businesses and administration.

The ADC plans to further develop data analytics at the city level with implementation of mathematical modeling and forecasting tasks.

Data analytics uses various methods and tools to analyze data, such as statistical analysis, machine learning and data mining, etc. The following tasks will be performed to perform statistical and factor analysis:
•    Use of statistical methods and techniques to analyze data and identify key factors influencing the city development.
•    Use of factor analysis to understand the underlying relationships between variables and reduce the data dimensionality.
•    Assessment of the importance of factors and their contribution to the city development 

Both methods will be used to analyze different types of data, such as socio-economic data, medical data, market research data, etc. This will reveal patterns and relationships between variables, as well as identify factors that can influence the phenomena under study and thus contribute to better and more balanced decision-making.

Dynamic systems modeling, which will be used to analyze the behavior of a particular system in various conditions, to optimize processes, and to predict future changes, will also contribute to improving the quality and efficiency of management decisions. Examples of dynamic systems modeling applications include climate modeling, economic process modeling, traffic flow modeling, and many other things. For example, if a road was repaired in 2020, the model will be able to determine that it will next need to be repaired in 2025. 

The result of data analytics, mathematical modeling, and forecasting will be data-driven products – query reports, links, consultations, and recommendations. The products can be used by residents and businesses to make decisions based on data analysis, as well as by researchers, experts, and the media to understand the situation based on factual data. This contributes to the development of a culture of data-driven decisions and, in general, the efficiency of those using its capabilities.

The Sitcenter will create a data lake, within the framework of which work will be carried out to expand the pool of information interaction with third-party information systems through direct integration and parsing  of data from open sources. Thus, the data lake will be a huge pool of diverse data, which, when combined, compared and analyzed, will allow to obtain enriched new knowledge and analytical products. Thus, it will be possible to: significantly improve the quality of calculations for the city socio-economic development; see the city coverage (for example, with video cameras), identify «white spots» and ensure more effective placement of such devices; compare the needs of employers in different areas and help residents make more balanced decisions when looking for a job, etc.

In the future, the following tasks will be performed to monetize the Sitcenter services: 
•    Provision of business cases, a platform and analytical services on a paid basis.
•    Premium access to advanced analytics and insights for businesses and residents.
•    Creation of ecosystems and partnerships for data exchange based on the principle of collaboration with other organizations.

Objective 3: Development of digital services for the Akimat and residents 

The Sitcenter is a software and hardware unit with specialized information-analytical tools (means of storing, collecting, processing, and visualizing information, modeling and forecasting methods).  

One of the goals in the Almaty Development Program, in the Smart City section, is to create a «digital twin» of the city - a system that will allow to reflect all the processes of the metropolis life in a virtual form. To achieve this goal, an interactive city map will be created using data from the Sitcenter and other information systems. The service will allow to visualize such data as: information systems, city facilities, communication networks, etc.

The interactive city map will consist of several layers, including modules:
1)    District monitoring – visualization of construction and repair works, landscaping works, etc. in the context of Almaty districts.  
2)    District indicators – visualization of district indicators in the form of dashboards (tables, infographics, etc.) for various categories (population, district budget, SME, utilities, communications, crime, taxes, local executive bodies, etc.).

Further development of the Sitcenter will be related to the following tasks:
1)    Integration and visualization of urban information systems.
2)    Digital services for city residents.

Integration and visualization of urban information systems. In order to expand the volume of analyzed data and develop recommendations for improving the city activities, the Sitcenter will be integrated with Open Almaty, as well as with the following city information systems: Sergek, Single Duty Dispatch Service 112, Single Video Monitoring System, Single Data Storage, Geo Analytics, etc.

Integration with the Geo Analytics IS will make it possible to show a virtual economic portrait of the city with a number of data related to the Almaty economy. 

Integration of Single Duty Dispatch Service 112, Single Video Monitoring System, Open Almaty IS, etc. will allow to monitor the call activity of city residents, as well as to collect and analyze the following data: by the number of calls in the context of districts and city services; on the most popular subjects in the context of districts and services; areas with a high number of requests; the status and quality of the request processing, etc. 

Video hosting of city projects will allow citizens to see how key city projects are being implemented in terms of information systems and their integration.

Digital services for the city residents are the following three large services for Almaty residents:
1)    Feedback service in the monitoring of districts. The service will allow residents to evaluate and receive feedback on urban construction and repair work, improvement of the urban environment, etc. 
2)    Initiative suggestion service. An opportunity for residents to give suggestions about city initiatives: carrying out repair work, landscaping, construction and other works. 
3)    Charity service. Citizens, businesses, etc. will be provided with up-to-date information on proven charity initiatives with reference information, contact details and an opportunity to apply for financial assistance/services. 

Data storage. Data safety is ensured through the management of our own Data Processing Center (hereinafter referred to as the DPC). The data center infrastructure provides technical and physical fault tolerance of project equipment 24/7 with a maximum business interruption time of no more than 24 hours per year, including: 
1)        fault tolerance of the server space engineering infrastructure;
2)        data security and integrity;
3)        correct distribution of server space;
4)        centralization of IT resource management in the server space;
5)        efficient use of business applications.

The DPC ensures the operability of both the ADC's projects and a number of key city information systems owned by the Almaty Akimat and its subordinate institutions.


[1] Parsing is an automated collection and structuring of information from websites using a software or service.