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Using ICT to address employment and safety in the matatu sector.

20 Apr

The use of new information and communications technology{ICT} has been applied in many ways in various fields to collect data, improve lifestyles and most important to avert disasters. Data collection for whatever reason is the first step to winning any warfare. We have seen modern ICT being used by our military as they battle terrorists in Somalia. The use of remote controlled drones for surveillance and even to launch missile attacks in high risk targets has become an effective tool of war with very positive result.
The same is happening in the public transport sector thanks to A group of Researchers from Nairobi university in collaborations with their counterparts in university of California at Berkeley in the US. The team has come up with a new technology that will probably provide a better approach that could be used to leverage the positive aspects of both the investors input; and workers performance; by providing reliable data that can be the key to improved safety, accessibility and efficiency.
David is a researcher from university of California at Berkeley USA and he has been in the country on several occasions for his research. I was introduced to David sometimes last year by one Professor from UON for a interview request. He wanted me to help him Access some of the stakeholders in the matatu sector for his research. When we started, David was more interested in monitoring and measuring corruption in the matatu industry. but after several meetings with drivers- conductors and managers- he soon realized, however, that the matatu industry is much more than a simple transfer of commuters.
This highly unappreciated industry is a fascinating expression of African entrepreneurship that has evolved into a multimillion investment; creating employment for more than a hundred thousand Kenyans and the only optional source of mobility {other than walking} for millions of people who rely on public transport every day. I teamed up with David and with a lot of support from university of California at Berkeley in America and our friends from university of Nairobi, we set out to clearly understand this vicious cycle that shapes the nature of public service operations in Kenya especially Nairobi.
According to our findings after numerous interviews with the stakeholders; majority of drivers complained of working long hours, and incentivized with high-revenue targets that they have to meet every single day. Lack of formal employment was also another obstacle for many workers {meaning no job security, no pay-slip, no insurance, no access to finance,} and therefore no stable career path to the middle class. They said they are rarely appreciated for their services despite doing their best.
Matatu owners on the other hand complained of driver’s recklessness and rude-mannered behaviors. Listening to majority of these owners, one would be persuaded to ask “why they even hire their vehicles to these drivers in the first place” if they don’t trust them at all. I know for a fact that this is just a myth and one that matatu owners have chosen to hold on to;since it is beneficial to them. by  avoiding taking full responsibility for their employees, they get away with paying taxable salaries and they can hire and fire them at will. Clearly, not all drivers are saints, and again not all drivers are reckless, what was lacking was prove..
David was more convinced that, the dispute; the hostility and suspicion could be addressed. We had identified miscommunication or lack of tangible facts as one of the sources of the problems. and by bridging the communication gaps; we could find a way to enhance the flow of factual information between the workers and the owners. According to him, a solution could be found with the introduction of new information and communication technology to the matatu sector.
We started out a pilot project codenamed “SMART-MATATU; where we fitted 10 Matatus {plying Rongai to Nairobi Route} with a top of the range and well supported Web- Based GPS Tracking device. This system offers wide range of Fleet Management Solutions that gives the matatu owners full control of their fleet and access to their vehicles from any location. Through a computer or smart mobile phone, the System enables the user to; know the vehicle’s real-time position by time interval, Receive alerts for off-road driving, over speeding, sudden breaking and various driving behaviors’ alerts. The system has a Geo-fenced control to regulate movement boundaries; it records the number of trips made to and from the destination and also kilometers covered at any given time.
Advantages v/s disadvantages.
Three months down the line, we have managed to sustain the project; though with lots of challenges. At the same time; we have also shared the findings and got feedback from matatu owners and drivers respectively. The project has had its casualties and beneficiaries. One driver and his conductor were fired when they were caught by police working past the hours; after lying to the owner that they had closed business. the crew abandoned the van but we were able to trace its location. This device is so unique compared to other tracking devices since it has specifically been designed to track driving behaviors; the owner can be able to tell at what time the engine starts running and when it was switched off, When a driver over speeds on speed bumps, exceed speed limits, overlapping, driving off-road or when he diverts to a different route.
On the other hand matatu owners are pleased with the device since they can now be able to know the actual number of trips the matatu makes to and from Nairobi and also compare driving style for different drivers. This will in the long run create trust and most important a better relationship between the owner and the workers. Some of the owners we interviewed told us that they would have no problem employing their drivers on permanent basis now that they know they can trust them.

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5 Comments

Posted by on April 20, 2015 in Its life, Matatu matters

 

Tags: , , , , ,

5 responses to “Using ICT to address employment and safety in the matatu sector.

  1. Francis Njuguna

    April 20, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    An idea whose time has come cannot be stopped.This Fleet management system will be standard to all well management transport vehicles in future.Despite ,Matatu crew refusing also cashless system with excuses like slow,hangs all the time etc,it is just a matter of time.One cannot invest so much money only to be controlled by other people who did not know the source of money.

     
  2. mariammarzuq

    April 24, 2015 at 1:48 pm

    Reblogged this on Mariam's Blog and commented:
    This is Magnificent!!

     
  3. KenData

    May 3, 2015 at 1:16 am

    How is this different from what is offered by Tramigo Kenya?

     
    • wambururu

      May 3, 2015 at 8:55 am

      I didn’t know about Tramigo, is it also free?

       
      • KenData

        May 3, 2015 at 10:42 pm

        Ha! That is the diffrence! Tramigo is fairly expensive!! Thanx and keep up the good work.

         

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