Human Connections & Technological Innovation Key For Future Cities

Three in four people would be happier living in a smart city, according to a new report by Mastercard, which features insights related to human aspirations and technological progress for smart cities in the Middle East. By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in urban areas, which places a renewed focus on urban living to ensure that the cities of the future are secure, sustainable and inclusive.

The Mastercard Cities of the Future Report 2024 reveals that respondents in the UAE overwhelmingly agree that living in a smart city would make them happier (68%).

“The UAE’s forward-looking leadership is championing a futuristic vision for the country’s development. To support these ambitions, Mastercard is working closely with our government partners to support their vision as we collectively fuel economic growth, job creation, and overall happiness through our digital city partnerships. Through this report, we are gaining deeper insights in the needs and expectations of our communities, allowing us to better serve the UAE through our technology, insights, and expertise,” said J.K. Khalil, Cluster General Manager, MENA East, Mastercard.

Priority innovations span connected buildings, smart travel and AI-powered services

The majority (61%) of the respondents identified smart and connected buildings and homes as the highest priority innovation, tied with smart travel services (61%). Technological advancements widely generate more optimism than worry. In the UAE, reduced human interaction is the top concern, followed by the possibility of becoming less active. AI and machine learning (58%) are considered the most important technologies for future cities.

UAE has a standout aspiration of increased sustainability

Against the backdrop of the UAE playing host to a landmark COP28 and extending its Year of Sustainability, public awareness of climate action remains high. Smart solutions to move to clean and renewable energy (60%) emerged at the top of the list of anticipated outcomes in the UAE. In the UAE, 85% of respondents believe their cities are ‘maturing’ or ‘mature enough’.

Urban residents seek super-app convenience and digital access to services

While strong privacy and secure personal data (58%) top the list of aspects seen as enhancing the daily living experience in a city, UAE residents would like to see digitization make their living environments, workplaces, and payment experiences, more efficient. Digital access to services like utilities, licensing, banking, and transportation is important (57%), followed by increased environmental sustainability (52%).

Partnership crucial for urban innovation

Through working with public and private sector partners, Mastercard helps develop solutions to advance sustainability, small business success, digital transformation, tourism development, education, and urban mobility. In 2023, Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) signed a pioneering agreement with Mastercard to form a Digital City Partnership to further accelerate the emirate’s economic growth in line with the goals of the Dubai Economic Agenda, D33. Mastercard has also partnered with the UAE government to establish a global Centre for Advanced AI and Cyber Technology in Dubai to accelerate generative AI research.