21/05/2015 8:02 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Urban Transit Data Is The Key To Developing Emerging Market Cities

Emerging markets have some of the fastest growing economies on the planet. And with India's finance minister, Arun Jaitley recently claiming that the country is 'on track' to overtake China's growth rate of 8%, there is no question that people are excited for the future. The real question however, is how this growth is going to be managed sustainably and to the benefit of everyone concerned.

Around the world, cities have become the drivers of growth. Cities draw people to them as places of work, centres of innovation and transportation hubs, as well as exciting places to live and visit. As a result, over half of the world's population already lives in cities and by 2050 this is set to rise to over 70%.

In India, this state of affairs is no different. In the last fifty years, India has gone from having only five cities with populations greater than one million, to over fifty, three of which have over ten million residents.

The consequence of this exponential growth is that cities are facing challenges such as over-crowding, congestion and pollution. There's simply more people in our favourite places which leads to ever-increasing stress for urban transit systems.

These challenges directly impact the future prosperity of citizens who rely on cities functioning well. Those who live in cities need to be able to go about their everyday lives quickly and easily, whether it be traveling to work or getting about socially, while visitors who find cities attractive destinations for vacations need to be able to understand foreign transit systems in order to make the most of their destination.

Within India's modern cities there are a variety of transportation options. Whether it's taxi, bus, metro or even an auto-rickshaw, it can feel like there have never been so many ways to travel around. For citizens and visitors, the question is what's the simplest, quickest and most convenient way to get around a city? And for the cities and transit authorities themselves, how can they unlock potential within their cities and transform how people travel and interact with them?

With this in mind, MasterCard has commissioned a report called 'Connecting Cities: Unlocking Potential in Emerging Markets'. Combining quantitative research (by the Future Foundation) across Brazil, China, Singapore and India, with interviews from six leading experts in urban design and transportation, our aim was to explore the key issues impacting urban mobility including transit, mobile and payments.

The report finds that governments and citizens in some of the world's fastest growing economies are looking to harness the power of data and provide efficiency through more personalized transit solutions. Just last year, the Indian government stated its intention to build 100 new "Smart Cities" and - in addition - to improve its 500 top cities. This ambition is matched by the country's population.

Through our research we discovered that over half (53%) of Indian urban dwellers surveyed are happy to share their user data to improve urban mobility in their city, while less than one in seven (14%) of those polled do not want to share their behavioural data in any circumstances. What's more, 90% want a service that monitors their travel route and advises them on suitable alternative travel options when necessary.

The thoughtful combination and application of travel data, mobile technology and payment innovation has a critical part to play in shaping the smart cities of the future.

Ensuring that how we pay for transit is simple, quick and convenient, no matter where we are, is crucial if we are to deliver ease of use to citizens and visitors and ultimately help to address the challenges of over-crowding, congestion and pollution that cities face.

Our research shows that the appetite for such services is high and this should encourage cities and transit operators across emerging markets to unlock the power of data when developing new services. We have the opportunity to build cities that transform experience for all involved and shape the future of urban development. Together, we can make the inclusive, integrated cities of the future a reality today.