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Digitalisation in Asia Pacific: Regional mobility trends and perspectives 2022

For the last two decades, the Asia Pacific region has been developing at a rapid pace, modernising in every corner of the economy, from investing in infrastructure, transforming its financial sector, and shaping cities into high-tech social hubs. There are many examples that highlight this evolution that occurred before our very eyes; just take a look at Shenzhen the city that grew from scratch.

 With the boom in technologies, quality of life, accessibility of services, and improved mobility, more than 40 million people have dispersed to live in urban areas and the process is not stopping anytime soon. According to the Asian Development Bank, over 80% of new economic growth in Asia up to 2050, will be generated from cities. This urbanisation, however, places a huge burden on the transportation and mobility system across the region, urging governments to take action and evolve to survive and provide a service to new commuters.

 The Asia Pacific region has a rich variety of transport modes with public transportation taking the greatest share at almost 70% of total passenger volume of trips. A continued focus on accommodation of large traffic and expansion to other regions with increased capacity, accessibility, sustainability and comfort has seen a lag in new investments in ICT, platforms, and approaches.

 In a previous article, we’ve covered how the Middle East region has digitalised its regions and plans to further modernise public transportation. Here we will discuss the Asia Pacific regional perspectives and examine the trends to be aware of.

Cities go digital

Based on the GlobalData statistics, the number of standard debit cards in the Asia Pacific region totalled 1 billion in 2021 and is predicted to increase by over 30% by 2025, while the unique mobile penetration rate crossed the 1.6 billion mark. With world leadership in usage of cards that is projected to continue, private and municipal transport operators miss out on attracting new audiences due to the lack of technologies and variation of payment methods. However, the digitalisation and transformation of the environment is becoming a popular topic on governments’ agendas. Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and many others are looking for ways to stimulate creation of sustainable and accessible transportation systems within smart cities and beyond via different modes.

Indonesia developed in longhand for BRT network supported by the government initiative. The accessible transportation was developed with fixed rates and free facilities for different segments of the population. The system was modernised with automated fare collection and accepts cards to improve the availability and transparency of service. The next step for the Indonesian government would be to improve multi-modal accessibility throughout the city.

The Thailand government has led an initiative of improving rail and metro lines within cities, particularly in Bangkok, following the plan to create a multi-modal environment for its citizens in addition to increased velocity of transit through the areas.

While in response to the increasing density and rising traffic congestion, the Philippines department of transportation (DOTr) decided to modernise its most popular means of urban transports - minibuses and jeepneys, through adopting an automated fare collection, enabling contactless payments and digital ticketing as a new experience for travellers in Metro Manila.

 What’s on cities’ agenda?

Technology has a meaningful impact across Asia, especially in major urban areas as commuters demand increased convenience and accessibility when hopping on a bus, train, or taxi. The Asia-Pacific mobility market is expected to grow to $260 billion by 2028. Asian governments add more transportation initiatives on their agenda, pushed by current public service challenges, cash-based operations, and lack of flexibility in transportation across various regions, ever densifying cities, and a shift of preference towards on-demand mobility and all things digital.

Here is snapshot of what Ministries for Transport plan table

From a smart city perspective, the attractiveness of public transport can be measured in safety of travel and accessibility of payment methods for commuters. Being dominant in card usage, Asia Pacific regions - especially rural areas - are still cash dominant with more than 50% of the population being unbanked. Yet with around 70% of the region’s population owning a mobile phone, use of mobile ticketing and cloud-based payments will inevitably rise. Asia is expected to see smart city revenues triple between 2025 and beyond.

Green economy

Based on Visions, Urban and Sustainability development plans, more and more Asia Pacific cities are moving towards Green Transportation and Green Economy. For example, in Singapore, 20% of the total carbon emission is caused by land transport and 75% of air pollution from motorised traffic. Cities are slowly moving away from ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles towards EV (electric vehicles), shared mobility, and bicycles; so-called micro mobility. While a reduction in ICE vehicles could help cities meet their goals, the optimisation of current infrastructure and facilities through automation should also be taken into account. With automation of fare collection for outdoor parking services helping to significantly reduce congestion on side-roads, it has the added benefit of reducing cruise time resulting in lower CO2 emissions in the area, while smart sensors could help to navigate traffic and create route optimisation.

Fleet management

Creating a seamless transport network and managing the fleet of public transport vehicles is another hot topic for the region that is present on almost each city's future agenda. Managing and adding new fleet to the network could be troublesome, but investment in the right platform can make it possible to add new transport within 24 hours as well as monitoring movement and route loads through the central system.

Accessibility of public transport

Japan and Singapore are going further in improving commuter experience during multi-modal travelling by providing comfortable transitions from one transport mode to another with sheltered walkways on stations, interchanges, and bus stops. Making public transport accessible is now on every municipality and transport operator’s agenda across the region.


Minh Ha, Regional Head of Digital Social and Infrastructure Solutions BPC says: “The pandemic has clearly hinted that the development of safe, tech-centred public transit systems are a must for any operator. The introduction of account-based ticketing with more focus on mobile ticketing options is something operators should keep watching over 2022 as well. Modernising transit through a data driven approach can help reduce expenses and improve fare collection. With constantly improving penetration of digital into our lives, contactless will become BAU in the next couple of years. As public transport is a part of the smart city agenda implementation, municipalities should keep an eye on stimulating the introduction of multi-modal solutions, which would help to grasp all the emerging opportunities.”

Future outlook

In the years ahead, public transportation services will be essential in the economic and social development of countries across the region, as it is one of the pillars to provide stable and sustainable growth on each country’s agenda. Post-pandemic it's a question of recovering and rebuilding smarter and better, applying new technologies and past experience to use in the current climate. The pandemic accelerated the process, pushing cash-based countries to look for contactless payment methods and speeding the evolution from contactless to on-demand and mobile ticketing for smart cities.

We at O-CITY always keep an eye on innovations and trends, upgrading our solution in anticipation of commuters needs and demand shifts. The year of 2022 will bring more data-oriented approaches with a focus on centralisation of transportation management, and improvements in accessibility through various digital ticketing platforms.

Advanced data capturing technologies - We believe that a data-driven approach would be supported by the development and introduction of advanced data capturing technologies for developed parts of the region, such as face recognition, biometrics, and Bluetooth technologies in public transportation. These will further reduce physical interaction during the journey, while improving transparency and centrality of data and fare management. The introduction of AI, machine learning and other techniques could help to improve safety of operations, while helping to process and analyse big data for better and more efficient decisions for transport operators and service providers.

Passenger connectivity and multi-modality increase – Many governments around the world tend to create a unified ticketing environment to provide a truly multi-modal passenger experience, which could include any transport media from bus, rail, light-rail, ferry, tram, taxi, jeepney, mini-bus, bicycles and beyond. Accessible transportation and unified payment methods increases the attractiveness of public transportation which might help to shift the preference from private to public transport in the most congested Asia Pacific regions.

Cloud-based systems and digitisation adoption – Lately, we are experiencing a rising adoption for cloud technology across Asia Pacific region. The increase in ICT spends on governments’ agendas will invariable drive new technologies to satisfy consumer demand. To keep pace with large players, SMEs would need a way to improve their competitiveness on the market, staying agile and adaptive. The SaaS model, which allows the usage of high-end solutions without incurring high costs on physical assets, could become dominant in the market with independent transport operators wanting to remain competitive and relevant. For urban and rural mobility sectors of Asia Pacific this could mean that any operator or service provider could leverage on the plug and play technology and immediately benefit from open-loop contactless technologies.

Mobile ticketing - Having one of the greatest shares of mobile apps and wallets in the world, the Asia Pacific region relies heavily on the development of mobile technology. Superapps such as Grab and WeChat, and Paytm dominate the Asian market providing various services from deliveries to ticketing. Being a next step of account-based ticketing, mobile ticketing provides numerous benefits to transport operators. With much of the population being used to e-wallets and smartphone usage, we expect the mobile ticketing implementation to become a trend across the region in public and private operators alike.

 On-Demand mobility - Imagine taking a taxi or train, or even riding a bike through seamless swaps at single touchpoints and getting from A to B faster and more conveniently than simply taking a bus. The development of MOD (Mobility on Demand) experience, with unified ticketing and fare collection, is part of many governments’ agendas. Providing full, seamless interconnectivity to passengers between private and public transportations in one touch point is expected to develop over the next few years in different Asia Pacific regions.

 Green will be greener

Being on each city agenda, the green economy is buzzing in 2022 and will continue to trend upwards in the coming weeks, months, and years. The concepts of ridesharing, EV, and simply the modernisation of infrastructure is on its way. For instance, Fiji Islands are planning to replace public transport buses with more efficient vehicles, emitting less CO2, while Nepal municipalities are focused on construction of green roads in rural areas that would optimally utilise resources, use smart technologies, and spread the traffic to avoid congestion.

We can easily see that the Asia Pacific region is identified as the spotlight for modernisation in public transport and infrastructure. The heavy investments in sustainability, smart city technologies and automation platforms will provide additional access to public transport through the cities and improve cities’ attractiveness.

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