We can digitise our matatu industry

The first thing I had to do when I got to London a few weeks ago was top up my Oyster card in order to move around London hassle free when using buses or tubes. The cashless card system is convenient and you don’t have to fight with anyone (read makanga) to get your balance. With the card, you only have to place its bar code by the scanner next to the driver on a bus or at a tube station when taking a train. The fares are fixed and they won’t be tripled when it rains or during heavy traffic.

We could use such a system in 254. Actually, in 2013, Google in partnership with Equity Bank created an electronic payment system called BebaPay card. It was sadly shredded in its track. A year later, another attempt to implement the cashless electronic fare payment technology was fiercely battled by those unwilling to be held accountable.

Digitisation of our transport system means capping the much-enjoyed loot by matatu operators and perhaps the corrupt traffic police who mint cash out of this multi-billion industry. It would also expose tax evaders. Introduction of the cashless payment would (unfortunately or fortunately) also render makangas obsolete.

Another amazing thing about London that makes it easy to navigate is the mapping of routes and streets within and beyond the CBD. I can’t tell you how many times Citymapper, the mapping app, has my guide across this city. Absolute mapping means putting on the map even the smallest estates and streets. Mapping routes is not just for those new in a place, but it helps locals too. It’s actually a timesaver.

Pre-booking ticketing is also a proposed project in the hope to relieve commuters of the usual draining anarchy in PSVs. Magic Bus Ticketing was working with Digital Matatus project to implement this technology. The application connects commuters with bus drivers and facilitates the pre-booking of public bus tickets via mobile phones. The cut here is that the bus goes to all stops with commuters who’ve already booked and doesn’t wait to get full in order to move. Magical!

We need to pave way for such systems. There are no guarantees that they’d be perfect, but they promise efficiency, among other gains.

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