People-centered informed decision making
for participatory democracy.

what we do

We work to build inclusion and participatory democracy in cities and urban spaces through empowering citizens, building trust and accountability in civic space, and capacitating government.

citizen empowerment

We empower citizens to know their rights and understand the data, knowledge, mechanisms and processes they can use to make their lives, and those of their communities, better. ‘Better’ means more inclusive and participative, both in ‘hard’ topics such as service delivery and built environment, as well as social cohesion, dignity, place making, and community building.

building government capacity

We work proactively with the government to build capacity for informed decision-making and evidence based policy and planning, with a focus on areas where this can uplift vulnerable and excluded communities. We enable co-design of existing and new processes and mechanisms for including citizens in decision-making, including sharing and opening data and information, and ‘crowding-in’ of intelligence and insight.

trust & accountability in civic space

We work with key actors including communities, the media, academia, and government to build accountability and trust in civic space. This includes fair and independent media, monitoring and transparent oversight of power, such as state-owned enterprises, and increasingly, the use of AI and machine learning in areas that affect privacy and democracy.

“We believe that through empowering citizens, building trust and accountability in civic space, and building capacity with government, we will enable participation in decision-making, evidence-based urban intervention, and inclusive co-design that will improve the lives of residents in urban spaces.”

who we are

Open Cities Lab is a non-profit open and non-partisan organisation that combines the use of action research, co-design, data science, and technology with civic engagement, to enable the development of inclusive cities and urban spaces.

We are headquartered in Glenwood, Durban, South Africa where the majority of our team is, along with a smaller office in Rosebank, Johannesburg South Africa.

We have been operating for over five years, fuelled by the support of partners, donors and other supporters. Currently, we have national reach through our projects in South African cities and urban spaces and a global presence in knowledge creation. You can find out more about our work and impact in our case studies below.

our core

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Machine Learning
& Data Science

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Tech & Data Literacy
& Capacity Building

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& Co-Design

our projects: case studies

We have been incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with some inspiring people, partners and donors in trying to achieve impact through our open cities and civic data science labs. Here are some of the projects we have worked on and the learnings from them.

Please view these projects on desktop