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  • Learning about Citizens and Their Concerns through Big Data

  • Informatization SMG 2845

    [How Seoul Metropolitan Government uses big data]

    • What is big data?
    • Big data reveals the policies that citizens need
    • Big data helps solve even the smallest problems of citizens
    • “Late-night Bus (Owl Bus) Project”
    • “Finding places where it’s easy to take a taxi”
    • “Platform for sharing and use of big data” prevents speeding and increases quality of life for people with disabilities
    • Village Commercial District Analysis Service supports startups and marketing
    • Big Data Campus aims to solve social issues through cooperation
    • Seoul is changing through the use of big data

    Big data literally refers to numerous amounts of data. Tremendous amounts of data are being produced through smartphones, credit cards, navigation systems, and other such devices and systems. Recently, with the development of Internet of Things (IoT) technology, data is being produced at an increasingly rapid rate, and many companies are using big data to help them make various management decisions, ranging from the recruitment of new employees to risk management.

    Concept of big data


    Big data reveals the policies that citizens need

    Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) is already tapping into the power of big data in order to discover the policy services that citizens require the most. In Seoul, with a population exceeding 10 million, making it one of the largest cities in the world, there are many problems that, due to the different stakes of the many citizens involved, are very difficult to solve.

    Over the years, the city has had to deal with a variety of issues, including: how to establish efficient night bus routes with limited resources, how to resolve the difficulty of catching taxis at certain hours despite the large number of available taxis, and how to determine the impact of floating populations on shops run by low-income citizens. To tackle these issues, the city needed to take the most effective approach and employ the best strategy. To achieve this, SMG turned to big data.

    Big data helps solve even the smallest problems of citizens

    ① “Late-night Bus (Owl Bus) Project”

    In Seoul, over 100 gigabytes of data are being produced every day; and that number would be much higher if we were to include the data produced by the city’s districts (gu), businesses, affiliated organizations (invested organizations), and social network service. Of such data, the data produced by the public transportation cards that are used by 90 percent of Seoul’s 10 million citizens provide insight into the lives of Seoul residents, based on which useful information can be drawn and applied to various areas. For instance, SMG has used big data to help it establish and operate late-night buses and subways, one of the city’s flagship services for the convenience of citizens. Big data played a significant role in the selection of optimal routes that would satisfy all stakeholders, which was a bigger challenge than actually installing and operating the late-night buses themselves.

    First of all, the city government analyzed data from three billion mobile phone calls to discover the places in the city that are most frequented by citizens at night (midnight to 5 a.m.). Also, it analyzed the usage patterns of taxi passengers who paid by transportation card and the usage patterns of existing bus routes by hour and day to devise late-night bus routes that would benefit the most people possible. According to a survey that was conducted later, users’ satisfaction with the service was 90.5 percent.

    Optimizing late-night bus routes in Seoul


    ② “Finding places where it’s easy to take a taxi”

    Optimizing late-night bus routes in Seoul


    That is not the only case where the city government has used big data to create new policies or services for citizens—there are many more.

    According to an analysis of 600,000 pieces of data from the 120 Dasan Call Center, a service that takes inquiries about and provides information on life in Seoul, citizens were highly dissatisfied with and concerned about taxi services in the city. Accordingly, the city government launched an initiative to increase the satisfaction levels of both taxi drivers and passengers. Based on data from DTGs (digital tachographs) installed in taxis, a map was created of the routes that taxis had taken and whether passengers had used the taxis along those routes. Seoul then conducted an analysis of 130 billion pieces of data on the operation of some 70,000 taxis. Based on the results of this analysis, it was able to increase the taxi occupancy rate. In addition, it reduced the taxi vacancy rate (proportion of on-duty taxis with no passengers) by 10 percent, which is expected lead to substantial reductions in energy use and air pollution. In this case, big data did much more than solve a small problem that had bothered citizens.

    “Platform for sharing and use of big data” prevents speeding and increases the quality of life for people with disabilities

    Building on its previous successes, SMG went on create a platform for the sharing and use of big data with the aim of developing a policy support system for reducing traffic accidents and promoting traffic safety. First, it analyzed traffic accident hot spots and the locations of traffic safety facilities and installed speed bumps accordingly. It also revamped facilities in locations where traffic accidents involving elderly pedestrians were occurring frequently, installed facilities to prevent jaywalking at median-lane bus stops, and supported police in conducting crackdowns on drunk driving by sharing information on spots where drunk-driving traffic accidents happen most frequently, allowing police to select appropriate locations for their checkpoints.

    Locations of jaywalking accidents by bus stop type Traffic accident deaths in downtown Seoul in 2013


    Furthermore, SMG used 320 million pieces of data on the operation of specialized taxis for people with disabilities over the past five years to develop an automatic vehicle routing system that shortens waiting time, which was one of the biggest complaints among customers.
    Under the new system, a customer service associate receives applications, and the system carries out a comprehensive analysis to determine the vehicle best suited to the needs of the applicant, the order of application, position on the waiting list, and nearby vehicles and automatically matches a vehicle to each applicant. With the introduction of this system, the average waiting time has decreased by three minutes, from 27.4 minutes to 24.5 minutes.

    Village Commercial District Analysis Service supports startups and marketing

    Big data is making a significant contribution to the creation of optimized services in the everyday lives of Seoul citizens and playing various roles throughout society. One such example is the Village Commercial District Analysis Service, which was created to support startups and assist with marketing activities.

    The Village Commercial District Analysis Service analyzes big data on commercial districts located away from Seoul’s major roads (among side streets) and represents the results on a map for small merchants who are interested in starting businesses in such areas. The service supports prospective small business owners by providing them with access to information on commercial districts and the risks of starting businesses there just by clicking the areas in which they are interested. In order to create the service, the city government designated a total of 1,008 “side-street” commercial districts, where there are no major retailers, as “Seoul-style side-street commercial districts,” and analyzed 200 billion pieces of data from 43 industries that are closely linked to people’s daily lives, including Chinese food restaurants and convenience stores, in these areas.

    Big Data Campus aims to solve social issues through cooperation

    With big data playing a growing role in diverse fields, SMG launched the Big Data Campus on July 14, 2016. The campus is located in the S-Plex Center in Sangam-dong, where the city’s IT facilities are clustered.

    The Big Data Campus is an offline space that provides support for integrating and analyzing data from both the public and private sector through a public-private, industry-academic partnership. The campus provides the software and dedicated computers necessary for conducting data analyses as well as analysts affiliated with the big data centers of universities. In addition, it makes the data available to private users and big data experts.

    The Big Data Campus was designed to achieve one goal—solve social issues through cooperation. The city government plans to open the Big Data Campus to citizens, civil society, and research institutes in an effort to help solve social issues, such as those related to traffic, the economy, and culture. This is expected to help bridge the information divide between the privileged and the disadvantaged, such as small businesses and young entrepreneurs, who would otherwise be unable to access and analyze such data due to the high costs involved.

    Seoul is changing through the use of big data

    Seoul is now witnessing numerous major changes with the opening of public data and use of big data. In particular, big data is credited with facilitating the policy decisions that led to the creation of Seoul’s late-night buses by helping the city understand the concerns of its citizens. As such, the city government plans to use big data in the development of all administrative policies in the future.

    Global big data market and forecast(2014年) Domestic big data market and forecast


    Not only SMG but also scientific circles are recognizing the importance of big data. As data transfer speeds have increased and costs have dropped dramatically, it is now possible to conduct research using large amounts of data from around the world. Thus, big data is becoming an indispensable decision-making tool in all sectors of society, including government policy, business marketing, and scientific research, with governments and major businesses around the world embracing big data to create new economic value. SMG, which is already learning more about its citizens and their concerns through big data, is expected to create a variety of policy services going forward.