Last year, IBM research listed Nairobi as one of the cities with the worst traffic globally, costing the country an estimated $580,000 in lost revenue and hours per day. IBM, in a follow up report, recommended the use of mobile phones and closed-circuit television networks to highlight traffic issues during peak hours. The system IBM has proposed will involve creation of a central command centre and closer cooperation with the police traffic department.
But one developer has gone ahead of the more comprehensive multi-sectoral solution to create an app that collects traffic information from the public and disseminates the same through a web and phone application and also through twitter. However, the Ma3Route did not start off as a jam buster.
“I developed the platform to help people to get easier and faster directions between locations in the city,” says Laban Okune, the founder of Ma3Route. “The app was initially designed for visitors who could not get up to date maps of the city.”
Launched in July 2012, Ma3Route has evolved to a source of timely and accurate traffic information hinged on the crowd sourcing concept. The growing community of volunteers and contributors send traffic updates via twitter, SMS (Safaricom short code 7955), web or using the Android app.
“Ma3Route allows citizens to easily share the traffic situation they are experiencing. The platform aggregates the crowd-sourced data and provides an easy to understand way for citizens to get updates. A user can either look at traffic in all of Nairobi or zoom in on a specific route,” explains Laban.
The app has maintained its original mandate of providing directions using a Matatu, plus other additional features including; integration with foursquare and Google places to map out businesses in estates and neighborhoods and a citizen reporting functionality to report bad driving.
Laban describes the Android-based mobile platform as the most locally developed application.
“Users can subscribe to traffic feeds on specified routes, especially if they use them routinely. Once subscribed to a particular route, you receive live updates as soon as news about traffic on that route is posted. Ma3Route is also currently interconnected with Twitter and can post all received traffic updates onto Twitter through @Ma3Route or the user’s individual Twitter account,” says Laban.
As the app has grown, users are using it to report and receive information on incidences along major roads and centres.
“We sometimes break news using the information users submit…like riots or accidents from different areas.”
Laban has now looped in cab companies whose drivers are always on the road to partner with him in providing real-time and accurate information on traffic situations.