Exploring and visualizing the accessibility of social infrastructure in São Paulo

Analysis of the distribution of social facilities in the city of São Paulo, Brazil

The aim of this research is to take hands-on approach into an urban data visualization project that can be able to engage and discuss planning practices and improve decision making through heterogeneous actors, including planners, scholars, activists and community groups. The comprehension about the Lefebvrian concept “the right to the city” enlighten the role of this research not as an object but as an investigation tool that can empower share views and debates about the accessibility and urban democracy.

It’s organized into three key parts. First, we will present the databases and the strategies that have been developed to address the theme. The second part consists to visualize and understand some facts and figures of the city’s population and liveability, which will set our analysis for the third part, the distribution of social facilities.

To set the scene for our discussion, it’s important to understand where we are talking about, the city of São Paulo.

The Workflow

The data visualization is based on district’s datasets that’ve been developed for the entire city. It’s fundamental not only to show all the sources and material that were used, but the most important is all the data and information developed are open and available at github repository.

The urban landscape

Population density, 2010 — Source: Censo 2010 IBGE and Infocidade

The urban landscape of São Paulo is characterized by a large population, according to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics - IBGE, the population is estimated at 11.2 million in a total area of 150.900 hectare. In this context the segment of the population who lives in peripheral districts is remarkably huge compared to the urban core of the city.

The liveability of the city of São Paulo has improved over the past few decades, as the United Nations Development Programme research shows below.

Municipal Human Development Index (MHDI), 2010 — Source: Atlas of Human Development in Brazil

The Municipal Human Development Index (MHDI) allows us to identify the neediest areas by combining three main parameters: long and healthy life, access to knowledge — education, and standard of living — income. But inequality of housing, transportation and social infrastructure still remain mostly in peripheral districts where you can find a large concentration of population.

The distribution of social infrastructure

Distribution of public and private social facilities, 2014–2015 — Source: Geosampa

Population densification means intensification of the land use and occupation, so the following questions are being explored: which districts show high levels of social infrastructure? Which ones are falling behind?

Concentration of public and private social facilities, 2014–2015 — Source: Geosampa

Demographic analysis demonstrates the trend of population growth in the central areas of the city already equipped with infrastructure, but there is also an increase in districts that currently need to expand the supply of social equipment.

Annual growth rate, 1980–2020 — Source: Geosampa and Infocidade

The identification of districts with the greatest need for expansion of social services and facilities, coupled with demographic projections, can be an important strategic element to assist in the forecasting and implementation of the necessary infrastructures. A range of preoccupations should be highlighted for further research and action to make the city more accessible and improve people’s lives.

“The city also makes visible the diversity of spatial forms through which these technological applications work, becoming legible even to the passer-by. I have long thought that all the major infrastructures, from sewage to electricity and broadband, should be covered by transparent walls and floors, so if you are waiting for the bus, you can actually see how the city all works and begin to get engaged. Today, when walls are pregnant with softwared capabilities, why not make this transparent?”
Saskia Sassen,
 Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University

Understanding data and participating actively in the discussion and construction of the city is fundamental to shape a more powerful democratic design tool. Therefore, this research sets out an agenda for more practices and initiatives that can promote and encourage civic engagement.

What’s next?

You can see an interactive version of the data visualization that will allow you to explore social facilities distribution by district. The project is published on mappinglab.me