The South African Cities Network Urban Data Ecosystem Mapping

by Majaha Dlamini
20 April 2023

The South African Cities Network (SACN) is a knowledge-generating organisation for urban research that heavily relies on publicly available city data to produce its knowledge products. These products, which include the State of Cities Report, the State of Urban Safety Report, and the State of City Finances, are essential for informing evidence-based decision-making and reporting. In addition to reports, SACN hosts the South African Open Data Almanac (SCODA), an open data portal that provides valuable insights and analysis on current and comparable data about South African cities. SACN recently developed a data ecosystem map to illustrate the various stakeholders in the data ecosystem and how value is exchanged as part of their participation in the Microsoft-ODI Data for Climate Resilience Data Peer Learning Network. This advancement comes at a critical juncture in SACN’s development of a new data strategy, and the data ecosystem map will be a valuable tool in improving the data capacity.


The map includes the following:

  • Initiatives – data-related projects/initiatives
  • Data holders – the data sources such as national departments (not exhaustive on this map)
  • SACN projects – projects using data or facilitating access to data
  • Cities – partners of the SACN and beneficiaries
  • Funder – Source of funding for our work (not exhaustive on this map)
  • Service provider – actors providing expert data analysis, and collection
  • Data design – data curation by the service provider
  • Data platforms – online data portals (not exhaustive on this map)


SACN recognises the importance of accessible city data in producing evidence-based knowledge products as a knowledge-generating organisation for urban research. Through our participation in the Microsoft-ODI Data for Climate Resilience Data Peer Learning Network, SACN developed a valuable tool for understanding stakeholders and value exchange in the data ecosystem. This will support SACN’s ongoing efforts to improve data capacity and support evidence-based decision-making and reporting in South African cities. SACN will continue to use this tool and other resources provided by the ODI, as the new data strategy is developed to strengthen the organisation’s position as a leader in evidence-based urban research in South Africa.


Accessing Sustainability and Climate Resilient Data

The SACN’s main aim is to support cities in understanding their reporting requirements and tracking their performance, as per the Municipal Finance Management Act (MFMA) Circular-88, and to offer further guidance for sustainability reporting through the State of Cities Report (SoCR) and the development of SCODA to provide consistency, as cities are often unsure about how to measure or report on certain indicators. Other government spheres and departments are also interested in rationalising the reporting process and reducing the reporting burden on cities. Most importantly, the SACN has a great interest in helping cities to collect and use data for decision making.


With regard to sustainability and climate resilience data, the SACN will continue to build its capacity and that of cities in the following areas:

  • Developing a systemic approach that aligns the various reporting systems and frameworks that cities use;
  • Improving the urban data ecosystem, and data collection methods applicable to South African cities;
  • Improving the usability of the SCODA portal and accessibility of data for knowledge sharing among cities;
  • Advancing and advocating for best data practices and increasing data sharing among cities.


Through SCODA and other data interventions, the SACN seeks to enable cities to monitor their transition towards sustainability holistically and effectively, in relation to other cities and their own stated priorities.

Majaha Dlamini is the Urban Data Manager at the South African Cities Network. To contact him, email