Informal Settlement Data Management System

What is the project all about?

Informal settlements are often poorly documented, due to their nature of being unplanned and located in geographically disjointed areas. This results in data misrepresentation from a planning perspective. State planning tools tend to focus on reporting at a ward level which can result in large data gaps concerning the quality of life and living conditions of the poorest communities in South Africa. 

In 2018 a number of NGOs involved in Informal Settlement Upgrading (ISU) work started meeting to integrate their efforts towards their common goals. A data management project was identified as central to this cooperation. The following steps were identified as part of this process:

  1. Establish Goal-based Partnership to share data for the common good
  2. Compile a data inventory – sectoral & spatial
  3. Build data profiles – visualising overall content
  4. Indicator alignment – goals & target, baselines
  5. Open Data Platform – storing & sharing
  6. Data Management – training & strategizing

Progress was made with the first three objectives prior to the start of the Western Cape Government (WCG) Department of Human Settlement (DHS) Informal Settlement Support Programme (ISSP).

Read more about the Western Cape Government’s Informal Settlement Support Programme

The ISSP presented an opportunity to align survey fields and variables across a number of informal settlement surveys in the Western Cape. Meetings were held with a broader group of Informal Settlement Upgrading (ISU) NGOs to share histories, tools and field methodologies leading to a standardized approach to data collection. 

VPUU’s current work in the ISSP Western Cape, City of Cape Town and informal settlements in eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality (Durban) provide a conducive environment for developing uptake and usage of a scalable data platform. To date, VPUU analyzed data practices of partner NGOs and formed a task team around data management in the sector. VPUU has initiated and hosted a series of technology transfer workshops across the ISSP NGO network to deepen capacity towards quality data collection enabling evidence- based work. 

Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) under the Comic Relief fund will develop and implement a public-facing data platform to host and manage household level data in informal settlements in the Western Cape. The platform will provide a data driven and evidence based decision making, tool to support service delivery and development planning in informal settlements and low income neighbourhoods. It will provide an existing network of NGO’s, government departments and researchers with a country-level platform to host aggregated report formats of their local datasets. Adoption and usage will be supported by advocacy, as well as training of public servants, practitioners and community members.


The project goals are: 

  • to increased data accuracy, harmonisation and accessibility,
  • to promote higher usage of available data due to informed and trained role players,
  • to have a more structured evidenced based engagement between communities, civil society and government, around IS upgrading.


The project is a between VPUU, the Community Organisation Resource Centre (CORC) and Isandla Institute with the following three primary objectives:


Data Management System Development 

VPUU will be responsible for the data management system development based on the existing system, scaling data platform access to ensure a wider geographic coverage within Cape Town and Western Cape, public accessibility, and training of NGO’s and Civil servants on the usage of the relevant data tools.

Capacity building and community outreach 

The Community Organisation Resource Centre’s (CORC) be responsible for capacity building and community outreach. CORC’s role will be to strengthen the capacity of Community Based Organisations (CBOs), communities and government to utilise data effectively.

Advocacy and enhanced strategies to engage with government

Isandla Institute will be responsible for engaging local, provincial and national government and sharpen advocacy with decision makers that influence cities. Human settlement is a concurrent function and national policy determines the levers available to cities to implement upgrading. Isandla will map these institutions and identifying key points of influence. It will recommend national policy changes to unlock a more socio-technical approach to informal settlements.

More links

Read Corc’s A People’s Approach to Informal Settlement Upgrading