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Urban and Rural Settlement Systems in Turkey


Socioeconomic relations of all levels of settlements are examined with big data at the scale of the smallest settlements to the metropolitans (81 provinces, 973 districts and 37.036 rural units) in Türkiye. The attributes, needs and comparative advantages of each of the settlements analyzed in YER-SIS with an innovative methodology will enable evidence-based national and regional development policies. Public and private sectors, universities, and NGOs are primarily users benefiting from YER-SIS.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Urban and Rural Settlement Systems in Turkey (YER-SIS) Project examines socioeconomic relations of all levels of settlements from the smallest settlements to metropolitans in Türkiye. Its main objective is to be a spatial base for national and regional development policies and strategies, investment decision processes of the public and private sectors and to increase the efficiency of service delivery of the public sector and local administrations.

In the Project, service centers, functional areas and rural field study results are identified. Project outputs, analysis results and data are visualized dynamically on, an internet-based decision support system with a geographic information system. Providing a dynamic query option in the YER-SIS decision support system, it is possible to produce and display geographic data in line with the needs of users. In this sense, the final users of the project are the whole society.

It is an innovative and pioneering study in terms of an in-depth evaluation of multidimensional relations between regions, provinces and rural areas and adapting network models to the space, combining vertical and horizontal approaches.

With the novel approach, the Project uses a hybrid model of central place theory and network analysis and also develops a sui-generis methodology to reveal vertical and horizontal relationships, hinterlands, and functional areas of settlements from a holistic perspective. Network analysis is considered a basis for determining the size of service provision, which is the first step of the study.

The generalized degree centrality criterion of network analysis is used to calculate the (service) scores of the settlements. The relations between districts, provinces and regions for secondary education, tertiary education, health, transportation, trade, cargo and communication are examined in detail with several centrality measures of network analysis. These measures are the criteria that deal with the locations, roles and importance levels of the units in the settlements with different perspectives in network analysis.

The geographical dispersion index, coined by the Project, is a contribution to the literature as a centrality measure. This is one of the most innovative aspects of the Project. Zipf Law used in urban science is adapted to study innovatively as well.

In the YER-SIS, settlements are analyzed under two sections; urban and rural. First, the analysis unit of urban settlements is the districts (sub-province) and second, the analysis units of rural settlements are the villages, towns and neighborhoods. In total, this project takes all 81 provinces, 973 districts and 37.036 rural units into account.

In order to identify the rural and urban service centers, the research considers different data sources in two main groups according to the analysis units and uses big data explaining the settlement attributions are obtained from official statistics and administrative records, mostly from ministries. Almost all of the data used in the study are big data such as mobile signal data or transportation data. For example, mobile signal data, covering millions of cells, are used for the first time in Türkiye. The number of visits to health institutions is analyzed and visualized publicly for the first time in Türkiye.

Urban settlements data is built on six dimensions: education, health, trade, communication, transportation and cargo in order to consider the mobility of humans, goods, services and money among districts, provinces and regions. Rural data includes five dimensions education, health, trade, labor force and transportation that are capable of revealing human, goods, services and workforce flows between the settlements.

However, due to the lack of sufficient data on the rural areas, a field study called “Research on Urban and Rural Settlement Systems in Turkey, Village/Town/Neighborhood Questionnaire” was conducted in a remarkably short time. The data was able to be collected through face-to-face field research applied to 37.036 villages, towns and neighborhoods via a web-based questionnaire to the mukhtars and town mayors. Also, for the transportation flow data, questionnaires were conducted to the officials in district terminals.

This Project is also an excellent example of public, private sector and university cooperation. MoIT determines the objectives of the project and general strategy with the help of the private sector and universities. Obtaining data, developing algorithms and conducting analysis are carried out by all partners of the Project. Besides the MoIT, the private sector and universities are involved in every phase of the Project.

Currently, algorithms are being developed so that the DSS can automatically present the results of spatial analyses with updated data. In this way, it is envisioned that the results will yield the minimum error and there will not be a need for human intervention in the near future.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

YER-SIS is innovative in several ways. First, this is the most comprehensive study in Türkiye in terms of geographic scope and content. Secondly, various big data are turned into more meaningful way. In addition to the official statistics, administrative data from institutions are used but also a field study is conducted to get data by using a comprehensive questionnaire to identify rural and urban service centres.

Rural settlements data had not been available in this detail and scope until YER-SIS. Third, a hybrid theoretical approach (combining network analysis and central place theory) is adapted, and an innovative way of measuring centrality even for the relevant literature, namely geographical dispersion index, is coined.

Finally, this project is an excellent example of the public sector, private sector and university partnerships in which all parties combined their strengths such as determining course of action, developing algorithms, software, and decision support system.

What is the current status of your innovation?

Three different books were published and a decision support system was activated in 2021. The system is currently used by different parties (public and private sectors, universities and NGOs) in various areas. More than 21.000 users have applied to DSS enables users to inquire and visualize data.

To exemplify, researchers from academia are frequently applying to DSS. Moreover, the system is currently used by Development Agencies and Regional Development Administrations for the preparations of the regional development plan, and for designing and implementing regional development projects. Local governments especially benefit from the results of the rural area survey in the provision of services.

Currently, algorithms are being developed so that the DSS automatically presents the results of spatial analyses with updated data.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

The MoIT obtained data from several Ministries and companies operating in cargo and transportation sectors for urban settlements.
As for rural settlements, in the field research, mukhtars and town mayors played a role in filling the survey, completed with the help of Governorships, District Governorships and Development Agencies.

Two companies contributed to the field study and analysis. Developing algorithms and designing a DSS, MoIT collaborated with universities and software companies.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

The main beneficiaries of the project are public institutions, local authorities, companies and academia as the Project reveals the horizontal and vertical socioeconomic relations of settlements, functional links, and needs, solutions and opportunities in rural areas, supports the investment decision processes of the public and private sectors, determines the administrative status of the settlements according to the location in the spatial settlement system.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

Three published books and one dynamic web-based DSS are the main outcomes of the YER-SIS. More than 3.000 participants joined the launch event of YER-SIS. Until now, more than 21.000 users have applied to YER-SIS attracts much attention from different parties such as OECD, the Presidency of Türkiye, the Ministry of Regional Development of the Republic of Kosovo, Turkish Ministries and Local Authorities. A presentation has been made to these parties.

YER-SIS is considered in the National Strategy for Regional Development, Spatial Strategic Plan, and Regional Plans by MoIT, Ministry of Environment, Urbanization and Climate Change and Development Agencies, respectively. Departments, especially in City and Regional Planning, reference the methodology and results of The Project in lectures. There are some academic studies referring to YER-SIS.

Usage of the YER-SIS will increase in the future while raising awareness of evidence-based spatial analysis.

Challenges and Failures

Obtaining and standardization data were two challenging issues of the project which took a long time to handle. Data privacy is another challenge to overcome. Considering the scope of the project and its content, the project deadline was the biggest pressure to deal with.

The Team eagerly worked all week regardless of day or night. Moreover, coordination of the Project Team from different parties was achieved successfully and good governance has still been prevailing. Even though there was turnover of staff in the Project, it has been managed in a sustainable way.

Field study was another challenging part of the Project due to vast number of rural settlements from which the data was obtained in just 45 days.

Constructing an innovative methodology was not also a straightforward part of the study. The Team elaborately evaluated several methodological alternatives to decide the most appropriate tool. These efforts yielded a novel centrality measure, geographical dispersion index.

Conditions for Success

The leadership and guidance of MoIT encourages the Team since the beginning of YER-SIS. Also, pioneering and innovative aspect of the Project keeps the Team highly motivated resulted in this remarkable accomplishment.

Well-equipped experts from various backgrounds (economist, statistician, city and regional planner, geographer, business analyst, engineer) have been employed for success.

Financing of the Project has been planned meticulously. Financial requirements have and will continue to be provided by MoIT for sustainability of the Project.

YER-SIS decision support system is currently used by various parties. That’s why keeping the DSS dynamic and up-to-date is the most crucial way for the project to maintain this success. Thus, software improvements of the DSS are still processing.

Continuing active use of the DSS as it is now in the policy development of local public institutions, especially Development Agencies, will increase the success of the project.


The Project is thought to be a textbook example for regional development studies. Since the YER-SIS has a web-based decision support system by which users can see the relevant data and also the maps, its replication will be very likely to conduct. For example, the meeting about Replication of the Project currently, is negotiating with Republic of Kosovo Ministry of Regional Development.

Most importantly, researchers are using the YER-SIS results for their own studies. Moreover, other ministries and local administrations are benefiting from the YER-SIS system for studies related to their field of duty. All will help force to increase data production and quality. With the increase in available data, it is expected the number of variables will be discussed in the new projects and it will encourage replication. The Project will further be improved with the help of new methodologies, data frame or cutting-edge technologies.

Lessons Learned

YER-SIS has made significant contribution to evidence-based spatial analyses in Türkiye.

It was recognized that there are numerous data available at public institutions and YER-SIS uncovered these data. Meanwhile, the team meticulously worked on raw data to turn it into standardized and usable form. It is learned that data availability and quality are crucial aspects of such a project. It was experienced that such a partnership lead to positive externalities in that it encouraged institutions to increase data production and quality.

YER-SIS demonstrates an exemplary case for good governance and leadership. Experience and know-how of the previous phases should be transmitted to new members of the Team. Thus, it is understood that background documentation and guidelines play a vital role in transferring information to new members to maintain and improve the Project. YER-SIS confirms the importance of well-equipped experts and planning course of actions to achieve objectives of YER-SIS.

Project Pitch

Supporting Videos

Year: 2021
Level of Government: National/Federal government


  • Implementation - making the innovation happen

Innovation provided by:


Date Published:

27 January 2023

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