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ITC and Community Mapping

From Nairobi to Manila, mobile phones are changing the lives of bus riders

Shomik Mehndiratta's picture

Every day around the world, millions of people rely on buses to get around. In many cities, these services carry the bulk of urban trips, especially in Africa and Latin America. They are known by many different names—matatus, dalalas, minibus taxis, colectivos, diablos rojos, micros, etc.—but all have one thing in common: they are either hardly regulated… or not regulated at all. Although buses play a critical role in the daily life of many urban dwellers, there are a variety of complaints that have spurred calls for improvement and reform. For users, the lack of information and visibility on services has been a fundamental concern. Having to pay separately for each ride disproportionately hurts the poor traveling from the periphery, who often have to catch several buses to reach the center. The vehicles are old and sometimes unsafe. Adding to concerns about safety, bus drivers compete with each other for passengers in what is known in Latin America as the “guerra del centavo” or “penny war”. Non-users, planners, and city authorities also complain about the pollution and accidents caused by these drivers as well as the congestion generated by the ‘wall of buses’ on key city arterials.
 
To address these issues, cities have attempted to reform these informal bus services by setting up concession contracts and bring multiple bus owners and operators together under formal companies (refer to the attached note: Bus Reform in Developing Countries—Reflections on the Experience thus Far). But even though some of them have made great strides in revamping their bus services (particularly by implementing Bus Rapid Transit systems), the overall success of these attempts has been limited, and unregulated buses remain, in countless cities, a vital component of the urban transport ecosystem.
 
However, we are now witnessing a different, more organic kind of change that is disrupting the world of informal buses using ubiquitous cheap sensors and mobile technology.

#7: Kibera: Making the Invisible Suddenly Visible

Sabina Panth's picture


Our Top Ten Blog Posts by Readership in 2011

Originally published on February 3, 2011

The Map Kibera project is a pioneering enterprise that has applied a combination of modern technologies that local residents can use to uncover information about their locality and use that information for needed awareness and reform.  The project has trained the local youth of Kibera (Kenya) to use the hand-held global position system (GPS) and open source software  (OpenStreetMap) to illustrate a map of the physical landscape and resources encompassing the region and apply digital media and mobile technologies (photographs, video-clips, SMS reporting) to tell stories behind the imprinted information on the map.  The goal of the project is to reinstate the often non-transparent nature of data collection and reporting conducted by external agencies into the hands of local residents, who not only become repository of information about their communities but can also scrutinize the information “to influence democratic debate, access resources and plan development on their own" (Project Concept Paper).