Big Data driven transport planning and governing practices in the postcolonial ‘smart city’: A case study of Bangalore, India
Sustainable Cities
Oxford OX


Indian cities face issues of increasing urbanisation, with rising demands on transportation systems leading to increased pollution and congestion. Indian cities have prioritised automobile use in planning infrastructure developments - pedestrians have largely been invisible to planners and road safety is particularly problematic for this group, as well as for cyclists, rickshaws and motorcycles.

In order to address the challenge of SDG 11, The Indian government is packaging transportation reform within the ‘100 Smart Cities Mission’, wherein cities have submitted smart development proposals since 2016 for the opportunity to be awarded competitive grants toward modernising city services using the latest trends in technological innovation.

The India government’s demonetisation scheme of 2016 removing Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes from circulation (approximately £5 and £10) have pushed India a little closer toward a cashless economy, along with increased access to smartphones and 3G/4G broadband technologies, with the result that Indian transport operators now have a greater incentive to use digital methods as increasing numbers of consumers are demanding mobile-wallet payment technologies.

Thus, technological approaches will have an important role in the transport systems of future Indian cities, and mobile-wallets are one of the key technological innovations, in that they generate and circulate big data through transport systems and more broadly in Indian cities.


This project seeks to critically reflect on the role of technological approaches, and seeks to find ways of understanding and representing alternative forms of knowledge, practice and power that are particular to local contexts of transportation. This is likely to include the interplay between both formal and informal practices of governing transportation and landscapes of power that are specific to the context of research that will be carried out in Bangalore.

Through a co-productionist approach, the research will explore opportunities to enhance the capacity of transportation governing and planning practices for government institutions, urban planners and transport operators in India. This will contribute to a reflexive approach to the technological development of sustainable and equitable transport systems and an increased contextual understanding of how big data is likely to impact transport systems and users on the ground.

The project will trace the application of big data in relation to the practice of governing and planning transport in postcolonial cities as a technical-rational approach, exploring the pathways through which big data and smart transport concepts emerge in Bangalore and how they encounter existing forms of governing, planning and operating transport systems. The research proposes the following questions:

  1. Where and how is big data produced, circulated, analysed and utilised for transport planning and governing practices, and how do new forms of big data planning and governing processes interact with those already in existence?

  2. Through what pathways are big data institutionalised for the governing and planning of transport in terms of knowledge, histories and mentalities, and what are the implications of smart governmentality for existing and contextual practices of governing and planning transport in the city?