Community call summary – Ma3Route’s mobility solution

On 12 September, Ma3Route CEO, Stephane Eboko shared the organisations’ experiences in improving the commutes of their application users, by providing real-time information on traffic in Kenya.

Ma3Route is a mobile, web and SMS platform that crowdsources transport data and provides users with information on traffic, matatu (referring to public transport minibuses in Nairobi) directions and driving reports. Their aim is to make travelling in developing countries easier, by providing timely transport information, informing city planning and transport regulation.

The popular app has over 500,000 active users and has been downloaded more than 40,000 times, making them a leader for traffic information in East Africa. In Nairobi, the most popular means of transportation are minibuses, however, the Ma3Route smart mobility concept considers a wide user base of all types of commuters, including car and bus drivers – 60% of which are between the ages of 18 – 44 years old. 65% of users access the service on their mobile phones, while 35% of users are accessing it from a computer. What is exciting for this small team of researchers, developers and marketing professionals is the use of various channels such as their website, app and social media to disseminate traffic information. They have gained a following of over 500,000 followers on Twitter.

With more than half the world’s population living in cities, it is estimated that by 2030, 6 out of 10 people will be urban dwellers. Ma3Route’s innovative mobility solution is a great response for addressing Sustainable Development Goal 11, “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. In addition to impacting city-related targets under SDG 11, it also has a great impact on health (SDG 3) and safety outcomes. Their crowdsourced information is addressing Nairobi’s core traffic challenges.

After the webinar, participants were invited to send in their questions to Stephane:

Serge Kapto from the UNDP:  Is the information provided to or shared with government/municipal authorities, to help manage congestion and urban planning?

Stephane: Our Data Science team has used our crowdsourced data to analyse critical datasets, to send alerts and to spread awareness in order to complement government efforts and surveillance systems.

Through this “AccidentKE” initiative, using Ma3Route aggregated data over a six month period, we were able to create a heat map where most crashes occurring in Nairobi were geo-coded.

For example, the data revealed that 42.5% of accidents involving a pedestrian happened within 500 meters of a footbridge, a distance that takes only 15 minutes to walk! This suggests that an urban design problem is contributing to traffic fatalities in Nairobi.

Using this data, an interactive and powerful visualisation tool was created which highlights how dangerous the major transportation corridors are in Nairobi – the results are in line with official data, which was made available to all public stakeholders.”

DataShift’s Hannah Wheatley: How is Ma3Route used differently than Waze?

Stephane: “Our users  share messages and pictures to foster a more efficient commute. It’s very contextual and also hyper-local information, as users contribute using their language of preference (English, Swahili or the local slang). In addition, we collect and share paratransit information from individuals at a dramatically lower cost. The fact that our service is multi-platform, provides various touch points. Finally, our service is also available through SMS, which makes it accessible to people equipped with feature phones.”

Mtandao wa Malezi ya Watoto Wadogo Tanzania: How would the interactive and essential contribution be assured to reach the community without discrimination?

Stephane: “By definition, in a crowdsourcing service, users create and share information. Part of the challenge is to ensure the quality of information, which is why in addition to our natural language processing algorithm, we also have a small team of moderators who verify the information. Once the information is shared, it’s available for everyone to see it, engage and make an informed decision about their travel, whether they’re private car owners, taxi drivers, matatu riders, cyclists or pedestrians.”

Other examples of initiatives leveraging citizen participation in transport:

  • Last year Ma3Route took part in a project called “Zusha” (meaning “speak out” in Swahili). The project allowed for local minibus customers to engage on Ma3Route digital platforms to call out drivers when they were not following driving rules. As a result, minibus users who engaged in the project saw their likelihood of getting in an accident decrease by 30%. http://zusharoadsafety.org/ma3route
  • There is currently a community-driven project in Nairobi called #whatisaroad, which aims at improving the infrastructure in the city. What is it about? Users can take a picture of a pothole, turn on their GPS and share the data on a map. Hopefully, the authorities will access this aggregated information and make the necessary changes. https://whatisaroad.crowdmap.com

We apologise for the technical difficulties experienced during the webinar. While we do not have a recording, the presentation is still available for download here.

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