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Three in four people would be happier living in a smart and connected city, according to a new report by Mastercard, which features insights related to human aspirations and technological progress for cities of the future 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.

Mastercard Cities of the Future Report revealed that respondents in Saudi Arabia overwhelmingly agree that living in a smart city would make them happier (75 percent).

“Through ongoing infrastructure development, investment and collaboration, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is working toward Vision 2030 and having three Saudi cities recognized among the top-ranked 100 cities in the world. At Mastercard, we are proud of our role as both strategic adviser and implementation collaborator to multiple stakeholders in our aim to help shape the cities of the future. We work closely with partners across the public and private sectors, and contribute our expertise in transformational technologies and digitization, so that cities can evolve sustainably and optimally,” said Adam Jones, country general manager, MENA Central, Mastercard.

The majority (60 percent) of respondents in Saudi Arabia identified smart and connected buildings and homes as the highest priority innovation, along with smart travel services (60 percent) for a two-way tie. Technological advancements widely generate more optimism than worry. AI and machine learning (54 percent) are considered the most important technologies for future cities. In terms of concerns, residents cited the loss of traditional jobs, followed by the loss of traditional cultural connections.

Smart solutions to transform to clean and renewable energy (56 percent) emerged at the top of the list of anticipated outcomes in Saudi Arabia, and across the region. In the Kingdom, 85 percent of respondents believe their cities are “maturing” or “mature enough.”

Residents in Saudi Arabia appreciate digitization making their living environments, workplaces, and payment experiences more efficient. Topping the list of aspects that would enhance daily living experience in a city, are digital access to services (55 percent) like utilities, licensing, banking and transportation, and a single digital platform (super-app) that integrates all services and information (55 percent). 

For example, visitors to King Abdullah Financial District can use a super-app, currently under development, to personalize the experience, including booking a car park in advance, navigating onsite, and accessing the KAFD loyalty program.

Through working with public and private sector partners, Mastercard helps develop solutions to advance sustainable future cities in various ways and develop digital transformation. For example, Mastercard collaborated with Saudi Payments, operator of the national payment infrastructure, under the supervision of SAMA, to launch Saudi Arabia’s instant payments system “sarie,” thereby facilitating faster payments and improvements to banking reconciliation.

Its collaboration with Fintech Saudi is expanding fintech innovation, while its work with Saudi-based SiFi will empower small businesses and facilitate entrepreneurial success.