To address the lack of up-to-date reliable data to inform decision-making, and to enhance the coordination between decision-making centres at all levels, LADP initiated Online Information Platform. The tool enables planning authorities across Iraq to share data/information and to engage in dialogue relevant to strategic, urban and spatial planning – both vertically (between Governorates, Planning Directorates, and staff at the Ministry of Planning) and horizontally (within and between Governorates, technical teams and Planning Directorates). As such, the Platform is a key tool (1) to improve the evidence base for planning and monitoring, and (2) to support the alignment of national- and local-level planning –  so that local-level plans effectively address local needs as well as national goals, while national/regional-level plans effectively advance the local development process. It finally serves to promote a culture of collaboration and transparency in decision-making processes at all levels.

The Platform includes two interlinked platform systems. (1) Cloud-based file repository platform (on Google Drive) enables stakeholders to upload and share all forms of documentation (maps, statistics, text, etc.). The ‘storage’ includes thematic content folders (specific to Governorates or shared), as well as matrices crossing topics and jurisdictions to display collective sets of data across governorates/topics. Governorates manage their own folders, which are accessible to officials from the Ministry of Planning (MoP) and other Governorates in view mode. Inter alia, this allows to identify and take steps to address data gaps – so that local-level needs can be better incorporated into central-level data collection processes. (2) Conversation-based platform (using WordPress/blog and social media apps such as Viber) allows for a fluid exchange of information and ideas between stakeholders; this can handle/link to stored documents. A monthly Dashboard allows to track the use of both platforms.

In the frame of LADP, the Platform facilitated the alignment of PDS/PRP with NDP, and GUS with NUS. It was key to the development of NUS/GUS: it supported data gathering, and it served to structure the participation of governorate teams at every stage of the process. Access to the Platform was limited to designated users from MoP, the Governorates and the LADP team. Still, over 130 focal points and other stakeholders in the governorates contributed material and ideas. As of Feb 2018, over 1000 documents were uploaded to the Platform, providing a unique data resource.

The requirements for setting up the Platform were determined by the stakeholders – all 18 Governorates, MoP-Iraq, MoP-KRG, LADP and the I2UD experts. The Platform was formally launched at the LADP/UN-Habitat workshop to initiate discussions on NUS (Feb 2016, Erbil). In late 2016, it was scaled up to handle intensified use and information flow. In June 2017, access through Workplace (Facebook app) was added, to create even more congenial environment for collaboration and sharing of documents. The Platform was managed by the LADP/UN-Habitat team; in Feb 2018, ownership and management were transferred to MoP.

The Online Information Platform (file repository and discussion tools) is easily accessible by staff at MoP and all Governorates. It can easily be sustained in the future to improve coordination and to promote evidence-based and integrated planning processes. It may be used as good practice or to be further extended to cover additional aspects of the coordination between national/regional and local authorities.