WASHINGTON (January 13, 2017) — City officials worldwide often lack accurate, comprehensive information about the traffic conditions of their road networks. Road sensors and other technologies that can collect data in real time are often prohibitively expensive even for countries with the financial means. At the same time, the amount of mobility data collected by the private sector has grown exponentially—an opportunity for collaboration between business and governments to improve mobility worldwide.

Today, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities formalizes its participation as a founding member in the Open Transport Partnership, a new, first-of-its-kind initiative dedicated to providing open transport data that enables cities and local transport agencies to improve decision making about pressing mobility and road safety challenges.

Bringing together a diverse set of organizations and companies, the partnership is the result of a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between World Resources Institute, the World Bank, National Association of City Transport Officials (NACTO), Mapzen, Grab, Easy Taxi, Le. Taxi, Miovision and NDrive.

Together, ridesharing companies Easy Taxi, Grab and Le. Taxi service millions of people in more than 30 countries. Their participation under the Partnership’s first initiative, Open Traffic, will generate traffic speed and flow data by aggregating and anonymizing drivers’ GPS streams and opening it to the public under an open data license. Miovision, a traffic data collection platform and NDrive, a mobile app development company, will also contribute to the Partnership with their data. Furthermore, WRI Ross Center and partners will collaborate to improve data-driven urban mobility policy through technical programs, research and training programs, and partnerships and discussions with private and public sector entities in the urban mobility sector.

The signing of the MOU took place after a discussion of the Open Transport Partnership at Transforming Transportation, the annual conference co-hosted by the World Bank and WRI Ross Center and dedicated to furthering sustainable mobility at a global level. A central topic of discussion at the conference was the importance of establishing public-private partnerships that leverage and open up valuable data that generally is held by the private sector ride-sourcing companies, like Easy Taxi and Grab.

Uber recently launched its own tool in January 2017 that makes a subset of the company’s global data available to the public through its own dashboard, which bears some similarities to the open-source Open Traffic platform. In comparison, the Open Transport Partnership facilitates mutually-beneficial collaboration between public and private-sector entities, ensuring that critical urban mobility datasets are not curated by a single private entity, and that public sector data requests responsibly respond to companies’ privacy and competitive concerns.

“The data revolution is causing tremendous innovation in the transport sector. Data will be the infrastructure upon which urban solutions of the future will be built. However, if this data remains privatized, then cities won’t have the opportunity to tap into this potential. The Open Transport Partnership is exactly the kind of initiative we need to make the data revolution work for cities,” said Ani Dasgupta, Global Director, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.

“The amount of data ride-sourcing and new mobility services are producing is unprecedented, and this is not restricted to highly developed cities, but also to cities in the Global South. This means that if cities around the world or facilitating organizations, such as WRI Ross Center, can have access to at least a small portion of this data and draw some insights from it, it will be a huge step in terms of understanding mobility and gaps in accessibility, and moving in the right direction for more evidence-based policies and interventions,” said Diego Canales, Tools and Data Innovation Associate, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities.