In the serene coastal town of Goa, India, getting around has never been easier. Upon arrival, you can park your car a few kilometers from the beach and hop on a bike to explore the sights. If you want to visit nearby towns, you can check the bus schedules, purchase your ticket from a local operator, and enjoy the beautiful places around.
But what if you could do all of this - find a parking spot, pay for it, rent a bike, and navigate Goa - all through a single app? That's the power of Mobility-as-a-Service!
The goal of Mobility-as-a-Service is ambitious: to unite all publicly available mobility services in a city, region, or country through a single digital platform. But how can different services like trip planning, booking, ticketing, and payment functions be centralized? The answer lies in open data.
Since 1980, India's transportation demand has increased about eightfold, surpassing that of any other Asian economy. Motorization rates in India are in the upper teens, contributing 7.1% to the country's GDP. With over 200 million two-wheelers on the road, India boasts the world's largest motorcycle market, and the numbers continue to rise. However, many major cities are experiencing rapid population growth, straining existing road and public transportation infrastructure. This creates challenges such as traffic congestion, pollution, limited public transportation access, and a lack of transit information online.
Is there a solution?
To address these issues, government and private entities are using data-driven solutions that leverage open data, enabling more effective utilization of fixed resources as well as more effective movement across the urban landscape.
Open data refers to publicly accessible data that has been formatted in such a way that it is completely discoverable and usable by end users. Anyone may freely use, reuse, and redistribute it. It is a significant national resource and a strategic asset for the Government, its partners, and the general public.
Why India needs open data for better mobility?
India's new drive to build smart cities across the country has highlighted the importance of open and accessible data. Open data has the potential to ignite innovation, encourage corporate and public collaboration, and make urban transport more pleasant, cost-effective, and convenient for everyone.
Although the government legitimized the Right to Information Act in 2005, the data or information requested is usually provided only to the applicant. Open data can help by fostering a more welcoming atmosphere for mobility businesses, which will form an environment that fosters entrepreneurship in urban transportation, ultimately making it safer and easier to move around our cities.
Unlocking the potential of open data for urban mobility in India
India's market size and geographical location make it a prime candidate for leveraging the power of open data to improve urban mobility. The benefits of open data in this area include:
Traveler usage: Tourists and business travelers are likely to use their smartphones to navigate unfamiliar urban environments, and open data can provide the information needed for accurate and reliable navigation.
Infrastructure planning: By analyzing traffic and commuting patterns, experts can identify areas where new infrastructure and transit routes are needed, leading to less congestion and improved travel times.
Research usage: Open data allows researchers to perform more detailed analyses, providing cities and other stakeholders with more accurate and actionable information on the causes and effects of investments and impacts.
Safety and security: Increased access to data can help cities identify accident hotspots and respond more quickly in the case of an accident, improving citizen safety. Vehicle tracking can also improve the safety of women travelers, allowing them to travel confidently around the clock.
AI in intelligent transportation systems: AI-powered technologies can help drivers avoid potential problems, reduce accidents, and improve overall safety.
Despite the clear benefits, India still faces challenges in unlocking the power of open data for urban mobility. One major problem is the absence of a transport data ecosystem, with data recorded using a variety of standards and formats. To bridge this gap and realize the benefits of open data, India should encourage and facilitate data collection and sharing, standardize data formats, and regulate data collection to avoid privacy risks and misuse.
Looking to the future, India should continue to prioritize data collection and sharing to build a more comprehensive and efficient transport system. With the right data and tools, public transportation providers can collaborate to offer seamless transportation service levels that address commuters' entire journeys. Ultimately, a well-functioning and affluent society requires a robust and reliable mobility system, and open data can help India achieve this goal.
- The author of this article is the Co-founder & CTO at Tummoc – a Public Transit App