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Digital 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.

Watching Tanzania leapfrog the digital divide

Boutheina Guermazi's picture
 
Digital opportunities are the fuel of the new economy. They have significant impact on both the economy and society. They contribute to growth, create jobs, are a key enabler of increased productivity, and have significant impact on inclusion and poverty reduction. They also provide the ability to leapfrog and accelerate development in key sectors like health and education.
 
Why is this important?  It is important because “going digital” is not a temporary phenomenon. It is a revolution—what the World Economic Forum calls “the 4th industrial revolution”. It is happening before our eyes at a dizzying pace, disrupting every aspect of business, government and individuals’ lives. And it is happening in Tanzania.

Weekly Wire: The Global Forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
 

The Mobile-Finance Revolution
Foreign Affairs
The roughly 2.5 billion people in the world who live on less than $2 a day are not destined to remain in a state of chronic poverty. Every few years, somewhere between ten and 30 percent of the world’s poorest households manage to escape poverty, typically by finding steady employment or through entrepreneurial activities such as growing a business or improving agricultural harvests. During that same period, however, roughly an equal number of households slip below the poverty line. Health-related emergencies are the most common cause, but there are many more: crop failures, livestock deaths, farming-equipment breakdowns, even wedding expenses.  In many such situations, the most important buffers against crippling setbacks are financial tools such as personal savings, insurance, credit, or cash transfers from family and friends. Yet these are rarely available because most of the world’s poor lack access to even the most basic banking services.


Mozilla plans '$25 smartphone' for emerging markets
BBC Technology
Mozilla has shown off a prototype for a $25 (£15) smartphone that is aimed at the developing world. The company, which is famed mostly for its Firefox browser, has partnered with Chinese low-cost chip maker Spreadtrum. While not as powerful as more expensive models, the device will run apps and make use of mobile internet. It would appeal to the sorts of people who currently buy cheap "feature" phones, analysts said. Feature phones are highly popular in the developing world as a halfway point between "dumb" phones - just voice calls and other basic functions - and fully-fledged smartphones.

Keeping the Peace: A Tech-Savvy Approach to Nonviolence

Uwimana Basaninyenzi's picture

What do stock trading and conflict early warning systems have in common? Interestingly, both rely heavily on mathematical patterns of recognition. According to Joseph Bock, Director of Graduate Studies at the Eck Institute of Global Health at the University of Notre Dame, scholars such as Phil Schrodt have been applying the mathematics of stock trading to detect and identify conflict before it happens.  This pattern recognition is part of a process that enables local citizens, NGOs, and humanitarian workers to use cell phones, radio, and online forums to help detect and prevent religious, ethnic, and politically motivated violence.  A few weeks ago, Prof. Bock came to the World Bank to talk about his new book, The Technology of Nonviolence, where he discussed the use of social media and other forms of technology to both detect and respond to outbreaks of deadly conflict.