A methodology for managing public spaces to increase access to essential goods and services by vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic



Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to present a spatial decision support system (SDSS) to be used by the local authorities of a city in the planning and response phase of a disaster. The SDSS focuses on the management of public spaces as a resource to increase a vulnerable population’s accessibility to essential goods and services. Using a web-based platform, the SDSS would support data-driven decisions, especially for cases such as the COVID-19 pandemic which requires special care in quarantine situations (which imply walking access instead of by other means of transport). Design/methodology/approach: This paper proposes a methodology to create a web-SDSS to manage public spaces in the planning and response phase of a disaster to increase the access to essential goods and services. Using a regular polygon grid, a city is partitioned into spatial units that aggregate spatial data from open and proprietary sources. The polygon grid is then used to compute accessibility, vulnerability and population density indicators using spatial analysis. Finally, a facility location problem is formulated and solved to provide decision-makers with an adaptive selection of public spaces given their indicators of choice. Findings: The design and implementation of the methodology resulted in a granular representation of the city of Lima, Peru, in terms of population density, accessibility and vulnerability. Using these indicators, the SDSS was deployed as a web application that allowed decision-makers to explore different solutions to a facility location model within their districts, as well as visualizing the indicators computed for the hexagons that covered the district’s area. By performing tests with different local authorities, improvements were suggested to support a more general set of decisions and the key indicators to use in the SDSS were determined. Originality/value: This paper, following the literature gap, is the first of its kind that presents an SDSS focused on increasing access to essential goods and services using public spaces and has had a successful response from local authorities with different backgrounds regarding the integration into their decision-making process.

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