GLOBAL • MOBILITY
JULY 23, 2018
Picture taken in the low income but creative area of Comuna 13 in Medellin, where electric stairs have been installed to facilitate the mobility of the inhabitants as their living environment is extremely steep.
By 2030, almost 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas. The rapid growth of cities in the developing world, coupled with increasing urban migration, has led to a boom in mega-cities (metropoles with over 10 million inhabitants). Now the question is: “How do we embrace the new opportunities of these fast-growing metropoles while ensuring a fair quality of life for the 10 million and more citizens who live there?”
Mega cities are at the center of the Sustainable Development Goals. The goal 11 Sustainables Cities & Community refers directly to the current transformation of the urban space. But cities are made up of various systems and millions of people. Therefore, a more inclusive and efficient urban environment is also strongly interconnected with goals such as No Poverty, Access to Clean Water & Sanitation, Affordable & clean energy or with the Infrastructure Investment.
Emerging markets will be the main protagonists of this transformation. Indeed, 95% of urban expansion in the next decades will take place in the developing world. Already today, 8 of the top 10 megacities are located in emerging countries. The global urban’s gravity is in emerging countries!
Yet most of those countries are not prepared for this development. There is too little housing, inefficient and insufficient infrastructure, safety issues and inadequate public services including transportation, education and health systems. The rise of mega cities goes with another sad reality, the rise of the number of people living in slums with poor living conditions. According to the United Nation World Cities Report, they were estimated to account for 840 million in 2014 and this number keeps on increasing every year.
At the same time, technology has enabled progress at unprecedented speed. So when we mention the challenges mega cities will face in the future, the usual answer that keeps echoing is to create Smart Cities. From Mexico to Singapore passing by Moscow, cities in emerging markets have also realized how IoT, connectivity and data-driven solutions can revolutionize the way they can deliver service to their citizens and create a more inclusive urban environment.
How can emerging cities embrace intelligent systems taking in consideration their weak infrastructure, the lack of technical capacities and an inefficient policy implementation process?
While two weeks ago the MIT spinoff nutonomy received the permission to test its autonomous vehicle in the city of Boston, it would be an utopia to think that emerging countries will be able to integrate autonomous transportation or to lead the big data revolution for mega cities as we are seeing it in developed markets. Actually, data scarcity is probably one of the biggest challenges that developing markets will have to overcome to catch up on developed markets.
But it would be wrong to think that developing countries are not taking part in the wave of “smartness”. In those specific markets, the lack of technical capacities, financing or policy implementation can be easily addressed if the cities adopt models appropriate to their reality.
Zooming on the issue of mobility, in a recent study about the future of mobility, McKinsey reported that the most likely approach for cities like Delhi, Mexico or Mumbai would be a mix between shared application and clean technology:
“For cities like these, the widespread use of self-driving cars may not be an option in the short or medium term, because of poor infrastructure, interference from pedestrians, a variety of vehicles on the road, and a lack of clear adherence to traffic regulations. The approach most likely to apply is a shift to cleaner transport, in the form of EVs, while also limiting private car ownership, optimizing shared mobility, and expanding public Transit.” - McKinsey.
In line with these thoughts, different governments in emerging markets have already started initiatives to tackle the almost proverbial terrible traffic conditions.
Some cities in Latin America have installed a program to fight congestion and pollution by restricting the circulation of vehicle with a certain matriculation during some days or peak hours, with the prime examples being Bogota (Pico y Placa), Mexico (Hoy No Circula), São Paulo & Rio de Janeiro (Rodizio). In Asia, Thailand also enforces a similar system.
Of course, it seems impossible to reach smart mobility without the participation of the government and a good policy implementation. However, if you combine technology with the drive of hungry and ambitious talents, nothing is impossible. Today, many experts see in technology and entrepreneurship a long-term solution to improve people’s lives in urban environments, for their rapidity of development and low cost of implementation.
Once again, smartphones have been a key instrument in shaping smart cities in emerging markets, this time by putting instant information about transit and safety alerts into hands of millions of people. Mobility-as-a-service apps are one of the hottest opportunities in developing countries.
Uber is operating in most of these markets, starting from Bolivia to Nigeria passing by Lebanon. Luckily for local players, the market is large enough to accommodate several different car-sharing providers. Cabify, the Spanish taxi app is now investing massively in Latin America. In Asia, Didi is leading the market, while also becoming a strong global player. For instance, early this year they acquired the Brazilian company 99 Taxi, making of it one of the first unicorns of the Latam region.
However, my personal favourite is the story of Nekso, a Canadian app that unlike most of the startups did not start by targeting US or European markets, but instead decided to launch it in Venezuela for the crucial need of a local taxi group. The cheap cost of development and the right environment to test and refine the app before its expansion are the other reasons that convinced the founders to undertake this endeavour. The app is now used in 9 countries in Latin America, including Mexico, and partners with more than 550 taxi companies, employing over 9,000 drivers. They are about to launch in Canada later this year.
Looking at another excellent case of when scarcity brings opportunities, the ride hailing and delivery app GoJek is one of the most important mobility app worldwide, founded in Jakarta, known for having the worst traffic in the world.
One last example would be the Israeli app Waze that works with crowdsourced data from drivers community and a GPS system, and it considerably improves traffic safety and driving efficiency in Latin America. Over a quarter of the app’s users are located in this region, making up for almost 27 million of users. In Switzerland, the majority of my friends don’t even know what Waze is.
Also, the company went one step further by creating the Connected Citizens Program that empowers public institutions and private agencies to share and read data to improve congestion and improve decision making for urban planning.
For instance, they closed a partnership with the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to provide data with the aim to create better routes, provide wider reporting of incidents, and support public outreach to promote safer driving conditions for citizens in the city.
Travelling around the world, we are always excited to see more and more local entrepreneurs trying to tackle the opportunities and challenges linked to rapid urbanisation.
Remember “Pico y Placa,” the Colombian program to reduce traffic congestion? The Colombian startup Notiplac, a Saas that helps connect drivers with legal and maintenance platforms, also assists their users to know when they can’t drive their car depending on “Pico y Placa” rules of the city where they currently are, thanks to their integrated GPS system.
In Peru, Isaac Malca, a 24-year-old Peruvian, co-founded TuRuta, an app that allows the inhabitants of Lima to access in real time the location of over 2,000 buses. The app counts now with over 200k downloads, despite the challenges the founders had with accessing accurate data.
“[In the United States or Switzerland,] the data is readily available and technology is widely accessible. Transportation is an already organized system. Here, we are organising the data while connecting it,” explains Isaac.
In Egypt, Raye7, a startup founded by Samira Negm is at the beginning of its journey to take over car pooling. In Cairo, 70% of private cars have vacant places and Raye7 hopes the use of their app and the generated data will help reduce the traffic congestion.
At the same time, while Smart City includes improving the mobility of people, mobility of goods should not be forgotten, and many entrepreneurs are already trying to improve the logistics industry.
Kargo in Myanmar has built a truck community platform, without them owning a single truck. It is powered by a bidding platform where drivers using the app can bid prices for their services of transporting cargo.
In Latin America, the Colombian startup liftit also built a similar tech platform and app to connect independent companies with their own fleet of trucks to businesses and individuals who would need their services. They also provide fleet management & road optimisation support. They register around 1800 deliveries per month. Tackling first the Colombian market, they just entered Mexico end of 2017 and are about to launch in other countries in the region. Stay tuned!
Urbaner is shaking the delivery and logistics industry in Lima, Peru with their platform and API that allows to deliver goods in less than a day around the capital thanks to a wide float of bicycles, motorcycles, cars and trucks. They are on average at least 3 times as fast as the traditional logistics companies thank to their on-demand platform and GPS technology. They are about to expand to Chile in the next month.
These apps create real opportunities as they are able to generate a lot of data in countries where data is still rare. Collecting and translating large amount of data into insights will help for better match of public services, urban planning and logistics with citizen and market needs, while allowing citizens to make smarter decisions.
However, to fully leverage the power of smartphones, connectivity needs to be brought to the people as today not all citizens can afford the data plans. Otherwise, the risk is to increase the level of inequality already high in developed markets.
Cycling is getting more and more popular in developing markets, such as China or across Latin America. Thanks to public investment to create cycling road (Sao Paulo, Bogota, Mexico, Santiago, Buenos Aires, etc.) and strong campaign to encourage the use of bicycle to go to work or to entertain the family on Sundays, the bike is back on the road. And once again, technology was an important catalyst of this change.
One of my favorite apps of the moment is Mobike, a bike-sharing system founded in China. It is especially convenient as it is very user-friendly, has an easy on-boarding process and different payment options. In a few minutes, you can create your account with your smartphone, mobile number and Internet. Then you just need to pay a deposit to get some credit and start looking for a bike in the neighborhood (yes, just like PokemonGo!). This is possible as the app features an integrated app and once you localise one near you, you need to unlock it through a QR Code system. The best feature is that you can recharge your credit through different means, ranging from credit card (for the good Gringo that I am) to cash recharge at the most famous mom & pop stores in Mexico, Oxxo.
An available bike of Mobike, Mobike.com
Mobike is a great example of how to leverage technology to meet citizens needs and facilitate sustainable mobility in mega cities. According to the company’s statistics, Mobike users travelled around 2.5 bn kilometers in total in one year, saving an equivalent of 170,000 cars of annual carbon emissions.
According to a report by a Chinese think tank, the total number of car journeys in the 50 cities in which Mobike operates had fallen by 3% since the startup was launched in 2016.
In general, cycling offers many advantages: it is clean, it is affordable for all, it reduces congestion and maintains the infrastructure as far cheaper than building in public transport.
While the measure seems very successful in Asia and Latin America, we haven’t yet seen the same popularity in Middle East & Africa.
If developing markets want to go faster and push the boundaries, they will have to work to adopt a human centric approach and foster innovative partnership models.
As Carlos Ratti, Director of the SENSEable City Laboratory at MIT mentioned in a podcast on the WEF website :
“Not only top down but also bottom up approach is needed to shape the future of cities. At this matter, initiatives like hackathons, cooperation between startups, corporations or even governments can be game changing.”
Waze CCP program is a great example of how to engage citizens, government and technology to create impact. Many others are taking the same approach, below is a list of examples that could hopefully inspire others:
Cities are made of different systems: education, health, public, transportation. Last century was the one of linear engineering. Now, it's time to think about how to connect and integrate the different systems to promote a better efficiency and inclusion. This challenge is even greater in emerging markets.
While big cities are often drivers of economic growth and create opportunities to reduce poverty, the rapidity at which they grow in emerging markets can lead to worse living conditions, pollution and environmental destruction.
Technology, human-centric design and innovative form of collaboration between public, private and citizens will be the driving forces to improve living condition of millions of people in developing cities and lead to a sustainable urban transformation.
Not only the bike sharing, on-demand transportation or delivery services apps mentioned in this article can have an impact, but blockchain is also expected to be soon used to foster more transparency. IoT and LED lights should allow a better energy efficiency and ensure better security thanks to connected cameras that will detect unusual activities for instance.
While the greatest global startups are shaping the future of emerging cities, local and regional fast-growing startups also have a key role to play in this transformation as they usually better adapt to local infrastructure, payment options and cultural patterns.
Besides, cities will need to compete to attract the people they need in order to thrive. The modern digital era gives citizens the power of choice about where they live. In the past, they used to follow job opportunities, nowadays, these job opportunities can come to them. It is urgent for emerging markets to invest in their cities if they want to attract or retain the talent that will allow them to grow in the future.
Finally, we all need to remember that if we want to reach SGDs objectives, mega cities need to adopt various technological solutions and serve the people that most needs it - unconnected low income communities living far from their workplaces.
It’s a journey, not a destination.
ASIA • ENERGY & NATURAL RESOURCES
Can Green Startups in Asia Help Mitigate Climate Change?
The Metronome, the famous Manhattan digital clock in Union Square, started the countdown to the next climate disaster.
AFRICA • ECOSYSTEM ENABLER
Designing Virtual Learning Opportunities for Entrepreneurs in Africa [Q&A]
If we say that COVID-19 has changed the world, it would be an understatement. COVID-19 disrupted our world.
AFRICA • EDUCATION & CONSULTING
Can Vocational Training Help the African Economy Soar to New Heights?
When the time comes to make career choices, modern young people suddenly find themselves in a seismically active world, where rock-solid paradigms are cracking, new normals are forming, and opportunities are flowing like lava.
GLOBAL • INVESTMENT
5 Simple Mistakes Start-ups Can Avoid When Measuring KPIs
Despite some fantastic ideas, brilliant products and passionate owners, it’s a sad fact that most start-ups never make it to their third year.
GLOBAL • ECOSYSTEM ENABLER
New Seedstars Index: Efficient Tool for Data-Driven Decision Making
The Seedstars Index (SSI) has been fully reworked for the 2020 edition with the aim of achieving a higher quality predictive indicator for the success of an entrepreneurial ecosystem. Why SSI is a powerful tool for data-driven decision making:
AFRICA • OTHER
Bridging the Gap: How to Prepare Younger Generations to the Future of Work
Access without quality undermines investments in the sector and yields limited gains. Ivory Coast, and the continent more broadly, has witnessed an increase of the school attendance rates
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE • URBAN DEVELOPMENT
How Switzerland Won Its Title of the Country of Innovation
What makes Switzerland unique? How did the country manage to become the global leader in innovation?
GLOBAL • HR
Being a Better Leader: 5 Skills Founders Have to Learn to Survive Their First Year
It's not all doom and gloom. Founders have to realize that setting up a business is hard, but also that most challenges can be surpassed if tackled with the right mindset and skills.
GLOBAL • URBAN DEVELOPMENT
Civic Tech: Building More Transparent Societies in Developing Countries
Our society is at a tipping point. Consequently, there is an urgent need for developing sustainable economic and social solutions for change. This is where transparency comes in.
AFRICA • FINANCIAL SERVICES
Future bright as african tech startup funding grows
Africa has long lagged behind the rest of the world when it comes to investment, even in the continent’s most exciting tech areas.
AFRICA • AGRICULTURE
Agritech in Africa: Paving The Way For a New Era in Farming
Imagine a drone flying 100 metres over a section of Nigerian farmland, taking infrared pictures that will then tell the farmer if his crops are suffering from a disease – up to 10 days before the damage is visible to the naked eye.
MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA • TECHNOLOGY
Overview of the Entrepreneurial Landscape in MENA by Omar Christidis, CEO of Arabnet [Interview]
Recently, we had a chance to talk to Omar Christidis, CEO of Arabnet
ASIA • ENERGY & NATURAL RESOURCES
Fighting Trash: How Myanmar Is Tackling the Waste Problem in the Country?
At the forefront of the Myanmar waste discussion, the historic nation grapples with managing unwanted products like plastic and food
GLOBAL • TECHNOLOGY
Migrant Workers: Four Ideas On How Technology Can Support Skills Mobility
In this article, we will focus on the question of mobility skills, because building the right framework and policies to enable the movement of people is primordial for a sustainable economy and social wellbeing of the world’s population.
AFRICA • TECHNOLOGY
Key Ways to Shape Africa's Tech Startup Sector: Media Perspective
Heyl has also taken an undisclosed share in the company, which was founded in 2010 by the late media entrepreneur Matthew Buckland, who passed away in April.
AFRICA • GOVERNMENT
Delivering Public Services Through Technology and Entrepreneurship
The delivery of public services such as healthcare, education, sanitation and criminal justice, is a key task for any government.
GLOBAL • PROFESSIONAL SERVICES
What Is a Password Manager, and Why Does Your Startup Need One
When you’re running a startup, it goes without saying that you’ve got a lot on your plate: managing your team, updating all your social media channels, responding to user feedback. The list goes on.
GLOBAL • FINANCIAL SERVICES
Fintech and the Future of Your Money
At the intersection of finance and technology lies a phenomenon that has been reshaping the world of money. The rise of the internet has brought about a high degree of disruption to almost all industries and financial services are no exception.
GLOBAL • HEALTHCARE
Digital Health: A Solution to Growing Problems in Healthcare
The Healthtech industry spans a broad number of sub-sectors: hospitals and practitioners; insurance companies; consumer-facing services; pharmaceuticals; and government – to name a few.
LATIN AMERICA • INVESTMENT
Chile — the Leading LATAM Startup Ecosystem
Known for its numerous breathtaking landscapes, wineries, and abundance of copper, Chile is a country that has so much more to offer.
GLOBAL • TECHNOLOGY
Proven Methodologies for Delivering an Interactive Workshop in the Tech Industry
Hosting a workshop at a conference or an event can be strenuous
GLOBAL • ENTERPRISE
How To Make The Most Out Of A Networking Event
Although some entrepreneurs out there attribute their success to luck, savvy startups know that real business opportunity is created through hard work and consistently showing up in the right place at the right time.
CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE • FINANCIAL SERVICES
The FinTech Stars Journey: An Insight on the Three-Month Acceleration Program
Have you ever been to Astana? You would be surprised. Sky-high glass buildings, newly built smart quarters with entrances by a fingerprint scan, huge Expo area - firstly, a venue for the biggest Exposition “Future of Energy”