Geospatial analytics can make urban green spaces more accessible – here's how.

By SoftServe

Geospatial technologies, enabled by AI and data analytics, can help urban planning agencies to create vibrant, inclusive environments that benefit the well-being of all city residents, says Nikhil Singh Kushwaha with IT company SoftServe.

AI and analytics can help urban planners pinpoint areas that lack sufficient greenery and prioritise them for improvement efforts, says Kushwaha from SoftServe. Image: Canva.

Urban green spaces, like public parks, can help promote better physical and mental health, community engagement, as well as mitigate carbon emissions and the urban heat effect, says Nikhil Singh Kushwaha, Data and Analytics Practice Lead, APAC, with SoftServe.


COVID-19 saw residents turning to Singapore’s nature areas for exercise and recreation, and the national parks agency, NParks, adopting technologies like drones and real-time maps to monitor and control crowds, previously reported the Straits Times.


While the pandemic has passed, the emphasis on accessible green spaces is here to stay. GovInsider earlier published a story around NParks’ efforts to make natural environments more inclusive for different segments of society, such as through its therapeutic gardens.


“Improving accessibility to urban green spaces ensures that everyone, regardless of their background or income level, can enjoy the benefits of nature. It's about creating more equitable and inclusive cities where everyone can lead healthier, happier lives,” says Kushwaha.

Driving data-driven decision making


Geospatial analytics play a crucial role: to identify areas for improvement, inform decision-making, and guide the implementation of strategies to enhance urban green space accessibility, says Kushwaha.


For one, AI and data analytics can help planners pinpoint areas that lack sufficient greenery and prioritise them for improvement efforts, says Kushwaha.


Geospatial analytics can identify areas for improvement, inform decision-making, and guide strategies implementation to enhance urban green space accessibility, says Kushwaha from SoftServe. Image: SoftServe.

These technologies help planners gather comprehensive and important information when evaluating the current distribution and accessibility of green spaces across the city. The information includes city-specific factors like population density, transportation, and socioeconomic demographics.


In New York City, city planners used geospatial analytics to analyse factors such as park size, distance from residential areas, and the availability of accessible amenities, affecting the accessibility of green spaces for persons with disability.


Having this information allowed planners to identify areas with limited accessibility. As a result, the city implemented upgrades, such as accessible pathways, ramps, and restrooms, to make it more inclusive for all residents, Kushwaha shares.


Singapore Land Authority’s former CEO, Tan Boon Kai, earlier shared with GovInsider on the importance of geospatial technologies for Singapore.

Identifying and designing new green spaces


Planners can also use analytics to design new spaces.


“Geospatial analytics can help agencies to identify ideal locations for new green spaces or expansions. By analysing data on land availability, environmental suitability, and community preferences, they can strategically plan the establishment of green areas where they're most needed,” he explains.


For example, urban planners in London used geospatial data to map existing green spaces to identify areas with potential for new parks, green corridors, and urban greening projects.


This was part of the city’s National Park City initiative, which aimed to enhance biodiversity, mitigate urban heat effects, and improve access to nature for Londoners, says Kushwaha.

Geospatial tech promotes responsiveness


Next, sensors and satellite imagery can also be used to monitor foot traffic, maintenance requirements, and environmental conditions in real-time.


Sensors and satellite imagery can be supplemented to monitor foot traffic, maintenance requirements and environmental conditions in real-time. Image: Canva.

“Real-time monitoring facilitated by geospatial analytics allows agencies to promptly address accessibility issues as they arise, ensuring that green spaces remain accessible and inviting,” Kushwaha adds.


Various data sources around user feedback and usage patterns can be integrated and analysed to help planners make a more holistic assessment across previously planned, current, and future green spaces.


Other geospatial technologies include geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, spatial analysis, and mobile mapping.


A combination of these technologies, coupled with strategic planning, thoughtful design, and proactive management of urban planners, can create vibrant, inclusive environments that benefit the well-being of all city residents, Kushwaha says.

Privacy concerns and unique agency needs


On citizen privacy concerns around data collection, SoftServe employs anonymisation and pseudonymisation to protect individuals’ privacy, says Kushwaha. This is on top of complying with data protection regulations, like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).


He explains that these advanced techniques remove or encrypt personally identifiable information from data sets, thereby preventing individual identification while extracting valuable insights from the data.


“In terms of security, we implement robust measures to protect geospatial data throughout its lifecycle, including secure storage, encryption, and secure transmission protocols. This ensures that data is safeguarded against unauthorised access, breaches, and other security threats,” he adds.


As a digital consulting company, SoftServe can develop custom solutions tailored to the specific needs of clients.


“For example, SoftServe can develop GIS-based applications that allow agencies to visualise and analyse geospatial data related to green spaces, identify areas for improvement, and engage with stakeholders.


“They can also integrate AI algorithms into these applications to automate data analyses, such as identifying patterns in user feedback or predicting future demand for green space amenities,” Kushwaha says.