Safaricom, Google partner to end Nairobi traffic jams

NAIROBI: Safaricom has partnered with Google to launch a traffic mobile application that offers motorists access to accurate and real-time traffic information. It is based on crowd-sourced data from other road users.

The partnership adds to a growing list of technology companies and service providers targeting Nairobi’s chaotic transport system with digital solutions. “Mobile technology has evolved from just a tool that enables interpersonal communication to a value-added solution in many sectors,” said Safaricom’s Consumer Business Director Sylvia Mulinge.

“Safaricom is keen to continue extending the benefits of our more connected world to our subscribers as we work to transform their lives by putting them closer to critical information.”

The interactive mobile application dubbed Waze will be run by Google. Waze will utilise voluntary feedback from Safaricom subscribers with the data mapped onto Google Maps, providing real time updates on road conditions.

“Traffic information on Waze, which is updated in real time, will save users the hassle of enormous amounts of time spent in traffic by offering alternative routes,” said Google Kenya Country Manager Charles Murito. “Waze will be the ultimate driving companion as it will track your progress in traffic jams. A recent study by technology firm IBM that monetised the hours lost on Nairobi’s traffic jams says the economy loses Sh50 million daily.

The study showed driving in Kenya is the fourth most painful traffic experience in the world, coming right after Beijing and Johannesburg. This has been partly blamed on an increasing population and a growing middle class with increased spending power. Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows the total number of registered motor vehicles stood at 161,813 in 2009. In 2011, the figure had jumped to 205,841, a 30 per cent increase.

Crowd sourcing platform Ma3Route, which was launched more than two years ago, is already enjoying a strong following, with more than 5,000 downloads of its application on the Google Play store and over 200 followers on Twitter.

Ma3Route also aggregates information on traffic patterns on major roads in the Nairobi city and major towns from users, and relays the data through its Twitter feed and the smart phone app.

Using a traffic bar, the application will calculate the amount of time spent in the jam and update your progress as you move along. At the same time, you will also receive information generated by other motorists.

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