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Key trend breakdown: City life

TRENDAFRiCA October 26, 2012

Overall, 48% of people feel satisfied with their lives in the city, and travel is the biggest cause of tension for city dwellers.

Key findings include:

  • OVERCOMING CHALLENGES: 40% of people living in cities own a smartphone. They rely on their devices to take advantage of the opportunities available to them and to ease the challenges of everyday life.
  • EXTREMELY SOCIAL: People living in big city centres spend much more time socialising around town than people who live elsewhere. They also have many more online friends than suburbanites do. City dwellers access online social networks as much as 3 – 5 times a day on average.
  • STUCK IN TRAFFIC: Commuting is the biggest source of stress and frustration.
  • FEELING TRAPPED: City dwellers are prone to feeling claustrophobic, especially when they do not have enough time to relax and enjoy themselves.
  • CLEAN + GREEN = HAPPY: Access to clean, green public spaces is an important driver of happiness for city dwellers. It is the key differentiator when comparing satisfaction levels between cities.
  • LEVELS OF SATISFACTION: 48% of people from 13 big cities around the world feel satisfied with their lives in the city. In Stockholm and Mumbai, about 70% claim to be satisfied. In Johannesburg 57% claim to be satisfied, which is higher than residents living in New York (56%), Tokyo (53%) and London (53%), and Los Angeles (52%).

Key trend breakdown

1. Land of opportunity

In general, city dwellers believe that living in a city provides them with opportunities that they would not have elsewhere, particularly when it comes to careers, self-fulfilment, entertainment and social interaction.

2. Path to satisfaction

The study found that people who live in cities are most satisfied with the abundance of restaurants, cafes, pubs, shopping malls, supermarkets and entertainment facilities. Other factors rated highly, include the mobile network and water distribution.

The areas people are least satisfied with are traffic and parking, air quality, overall cleanliness and the manner of communication used by authorities.

Today, about 50% of city dwellers use their mobile phones every day to connect to the internet, and about 40% own a smartphone. They depend on the mobile networks for both business and personal use. Ericsson asserts that an efficient mobile network is essential because it has the potential to make life easier for people. Moving about in the city can be unpredictable, even hazardous and by having access to online information and services, people are not only better able to take advantage of what the city has to offer; they are also better equipped to deal with unexpected eventualities.

3. Who are you?

Demographics play a major role in determining what aspects of city life people are most and least satisfied with.

Ericsson’s results show that in general, women are slightly happier living in cities than men are, particularly in Mumbai and Tokyo. Additionally, students and well-educated white collar workers tend to be the happiest demographic group in cites, whereas unemployed people are the least satisfied of all.

The trend to note is that those who feel the most fulfilled are likely to be the most satisfied – a trend which is particularly prevalent in cities compared to elsewhere.

Age can also play a role in satisfaction levels, depending on where you are. Young people are happier than older people in Cairo and Seoul, in contrast to Mumbai, Stockholm and Tokyo, where older people are the most contented.

4. Clean and green

Taken as a whole, among the measured factors, the one showing highest correlation to happiness with life in the city is the perceived abundance of clean, green parks and public spaces.

Living in the city can be emotionally challenging and common side-effects include: feeling trapped, monitored or stressed. As a result, many feel that they would be better off living elsewhere. This kind of claustrophobia is most prevalent in Mumbai, Cairo, Beijing, Hong Kong and Seoul. Cities with the lowest levels of claustrophobia include Stockholm, Moscow, Tokyo and New York.

5. Commuter Stress

Inner city travel is an inescapable part of everyday life for many people in cities and one that often results in being late for work and other appointments – inevitably causing high levels of stress and frustration.

City dwellers spend an average of 2 hours, 20 minutes each day traveling the city. And in most of the big cities, the traffic and parking situation is the one which causes the most stress in daily life. Many commuters worldwide believe that the only way to improve the commuting experience is through access to more flexible information on their mobile phones. In some cities, authorities are already working to improve the availability of real-time traffic data and public information to mobile devices. The information can then be incorporated into applications which help people to navigate the cities during busy periods. This system is already being implemented in Boston, New York, London and Stockholm.

A good source is www.opendatastories.org which provides open data to make life easier for city dwellers.

6. Traffic creates traffic

Smartphones are most heavily used during rush hour is a key finding. Public transport and congestion on the roads are areas where ICT could be used to make life easier for commuters, by providing real-time traffic and transport schedule updates.

People are more relaxed when they know how long their commute will take, as this enables them to utilise their time more efficiently. Smartphones can be an invaluable tool on the daily commute, allowing people to send and receive emails, organise leisure time, and keep up to date with the news. For those who drive, they generally use their mobile devices to listen to music. All of this helps people to feel that their time has not been wasted.

Knowing the ways in which people choose to commute, helps to determine what services they would find the most beneficial. For example, people who commute by bike would benefit from knowing where they can use cycle lanes. Those who use public transport would benefit from real-time updated timetables and travel planners. Or, for those who drive, a GPS travel planner with access to real-time traffic data would save considerable time and stress.

7. We love social networks

It’s a fact, those who live in a big city centre spend much more time socialising with friends around town than those who live in rural or suburban areas. Big cities are hotbeds for creativity, bringing together people from all walks of life and it is the sheer number of social opportunities that is part of what makes life in a big city so alluring.

However, people living in city centres also spend less time with their spouses and partners. This could be linked to the fact that people tend to move out of city centres when they have children: people with children probably spend more time with their families and therefore their spouses too.

The average city dweller spends 2 hours and 30 minutes socialising on an average weekday, 45 minutes of which are spent socialising online.

The cities where people spend the most time socialising are Sao Paulo, Moscow and Cairo. Comparatively, people in Seoul spend less time socialising and more time at work.

8. Creative collective hubs

Cities are hubs for socially networked creativity. Online social networking sites are regularly used by people in cities, with the average person using two social networks.

However, many in Beijing, Mumbai, Moscow, Sao Paulo and Cairo claim to be active on three or more. These social networks are usually accessed three to five times a day, with young people accessing them more often at roughly six times a day.

Where you live can affect the number of friends you have on your social network and the Ericsson study shows that people living in city centres have more online friends than those in suburban areas, and that people in Sao Paulo, Johannesburg and Cairo, have the most online friends.

Staying up-to-date with friends and family – and keeping them up-to-date – are still the most common activities. However, the world of online social networking is growing. The third most common activity is to connect and exchange ideas with others, in effect turning cities into hubs for socially networked creativity.

This is particularly pronounced in Tokyo, where the need for crowdsourced information solutions increased following on the earthquake in March 2011. Around 30% also use social networks as a primary source of information about what is going on in their city or around the world. This is most prominent in Beijing and Cairo.

SOURCE: Ericsson, a provider of communications technology and services, aims to enable a ‘networked society’ with efficient real-time solutions that allow all to study, work and live our lives more freely, in sustainable societies around the world.

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