How our regional model reflects market understanding, and the benefits of diversity of thought

For this post in our Team Insights series, Julian Hirst, Director of WhereIsMyTransport, explains how our regional model works, and shares his thoughts on the impact of our ground-up mobility data collection on operations and market understanding.

Our data collectors

In emerging-market megacities, mass public transport is complex, nuanced, and dynamic — not always reliable, not always predictable, not always safe. The experience for riders can vary wildly from network to network, never mind from city to city. To decode the whole thing, across markets, we have to make sure that we properly capture the nuances and complexities.

The only way to do that is to work with locals who use these networks day in, day out, with a street-level understanding of how it all fits together. Julian describes the importance of involving local audiences in the design process:

“For our data collectors, in any city where we work, decoding the complexities of formal and informal public transport is second nature. That depth of contextual understanding is vital, and it is baked into our data from day one.”

Our data collection app in use

The next steps

Our local teams of data collectors spend four to six weeks riding every route in a city, mapping every station and every transit hub, gathering data in the environment, including the signs and signals that are effectively a localised ‘user manual’ for public transport.

Because more than two thirds of the population in emerging-market cities relies on public transport — and can spend anything from two to six hours a day riding it — data collection projects are often more than just a job and a paycheck for our local teams.

“Many of our data collectors join us for the chance to be part of the solution; to do something tangible to improve public transport for everyone. We can train anyone to use the tools, but working with people who have passion, purpose and sense of meaning on top of street smarts is a huge advantage.”
— Julian Hirst

Gautrain buses in Johannesburg

People define the regional model

WhereIsMyTransport’s approach to everything is underpinned by one core value: care. We care about each other, we care about our mission, we care about what we do and how we do it: producing and maintaining the most reliable, highest-quality mobility and mobility-related data in emerging markets.

Our teams expect us to look for that in the people we hire. Julian explains: “We could simply hire brilliant people who don’t care about — or know anything about public transport — but it wouldn’t be the same at all. We’re looking for that passion; we’re looking for our fellow nerds!”

Our regional model is constantly evolving and improving as we expand into more markets and grow our teams across the globe. As we grow, Julian explains:

“We remind ourselves constantly that we’re attempting something that’s never been done before — not at this scale — and we never lose sight of the fact that we haven’t yet solved the problem we set out to solve. We’re always looking for ways to innovate, to do more, to do better.”

Passengers in Dar es Salaam

Diversity of thought

As a global business, diversity of thought is a priority, in particular when reflecting on the impact of our regional model in emerging markets. With a distributed team, and a remote-first approach, we are especially sensitive to the challenges of building intercultural relationships between people with very different backgrounds and life experience.

“It really is a privilege to be able to work with teams on the ground in dozens of emerging markets. As a learning environment, it’s hard to beat. Whether you’re talking to someone in Dhaka or in downtown Dar Es Salaam, you’re experiencing the world through new eyes and new experiences — learning, adjusting, adapting constantly” — Julian Hirst.

Navigating cultural diversity is difficult. We sometimes get it wrong, of course. And when we get it wrong, we own it. It’s the only way to grow.

With understanding, there is tolerance, forgiveness and empathy. Encouraging diversity of thought is about understanding how others feel and giving them the platform to express themselves. Having various perspectives on a topic or initiative means that it’s not just one person’s view, it’s a collective vision that results in a positive collaboration, and a better outcome.

Find out more about WhereIsMyTransport and the team behind the mission.

Stories about data, mobility and Majority-World megacities.