Ma3Route is a mobile,web and SMS platform founded in Kenya to help drivers and passengers track and share information on what is happening on the city’s roads especially in wee hours when traffic is heavy.
In Kenya there is no public information on which road has heavy traffic or not unless there is a public function and one road is closed. Every one there has to guess which route is less congested but Ma3Route, meaning Matatu route, will clear the lack of information by drivers, passengers, cab drivers to know how to get from point A to B.
Ma3Route will also help visitors looking to find information about fares to different region’s of the city, directions to a place and public transport routes.
TechMoran met with Laban Okune, the founder and below is the Ma3Route story.
When was it launched and where?
Ma3Route was launched in June 2012 in Nairobi.
Who are its founders?
What problem do you solve?
According to IBM’s “commuter pain” report in 2011, Nairobi was listed as the fourth worst city in the world for traffic congestion. The city, like many fast growing cities in developing countries, still does not have freely available, trust-worthy information covering directions, traffic, and public transportation. Democratizing such information will enable citizens to make more informed decisions about the best routes to use when transiting around the city. Our application crowd-sources for traffic and transport information from locals in order to provide users with up-to-date information that can inform their movements.
How does it work?
Ma3Route is a mobile/web/SMS platform that allows citizens to easily share the traffic situation they are experiencing. The platform aggregates the crowd-sourced data and provides an easy to understand way for citizens to get updates. A user can either look at traffic in all of Nairobi or zoom in on the specific route in which they may be interested.
Explore public transportation routes
Ma3Route helps you find out how to get from point A to point B using public transport (matatu or ma3) in easy-to-understand textual instructions. You can also find the estimated cost of the route and any available alternative means.
Ma3Route allows users to explore neighborhoods and check out what businesses exist in the area. This functionality integrates with FourSquare and GooglePlaces, applications that allow you to see reviews on businesses and to see which of your friends are there at the moment.
Reckless and Dangerous Driving
Ma3Route has a “mulika dere” functionality where citizens are able to report any bad driving that they witness. The data is critical for organizations such as Kenya Police and Matatu SACCOs who need to keep tabs on the drivers.
Take us through your features
Ma3Route runs on either an Android mobile platform (downloadable at the Android store), via SMS (on safaricom short code 7955), on the web at www.ma3route.com. All platforms are easy to use both for uploading and looking up information.
The Android-based mobile platform is the most developed application now, with the ability to subscribe to traffic feeds on specified routes.
Once subscribed to a particular route, you receive live updates as soon as news about traffic on the specified route is posted.
Ma3Route is also now connected with Twitter and can post all received traffic updates to Twitter through @Ma3Route or the user’s individual Twitter account.
Ma3Route has a social gaming component to encourage Kenyans to report traffic through the application. Users are able to unlock badges based on their degree of participation and can progress from volunteer status to “Utimate” level, offering bragging rights to the holder of the “Ultimate” badge.
We are in the process of further incentivizing use of the application by partnering with organizations to give monetary and in-kind prizes tied to the unlocking of badges. This gaming component encourages users to actively participate and report through Ma3Route.
How many users so far? /downloads
Ma3Route has over 300 downloads from the Android Google Play store and usage is exponentially increasing. Our web page has more than 14,000 views since launch and the SMS has had more that 500 queries so far.
What is your business model?
Ma3Route earns revenue by:
• Selling /Licensing Collected Data (public transport routes; traffic patterns; dangerous drivers’
• Data Analysis Portal for Clients;
• Pro Version of the Mobile applications.
• Advertising and SMS querying fee;
• Third party add-ons, e.g. Listing a House/Business (where landlords can add house listings for a
Any competition in Nairobi?
Google Maps is an international competitor to Ma3Route because it similarly provides directions worldwide and has wide brand recognition. But now, Google Maps is limited in its developing country presence because of its lack of correct local information on directions, public transport, and traffic. Other start-up local traffic initiatives by organizations like Kenya Red Cross Society are potential competitors because they are also generating local transport-related content.
Any one else doing such in Africa?
There is another application called Waze, developed in the US, which is attempting to crowdsource traffic updates in some African countries like South Africa and Kenya. However, the application does not have local information on directions nor is it easy to for common citizens, who are not familiar with Western-style maps.
Any funding yet?
We are still running on seed funding received from friends and family.
We have established partnerships with local taxi companies including Focus Cab and Tripple J cabs. We are also in negotiations with Nairobi radio stations and Kenya Red Cross. In 2013, we are interested in working together with the Red Cross Society country offices in many developing countries. With their mandate to improve road safety, we believe we can have a strong collaboration
centered on shared values. We would like to work with the Red Cross to use their established local connections to collect data, and market the Ma3Route application.
Some notable challenges experienced include incentivizing users to add content, difficulties in advertising the application due to lack of funds and qualified staff, and attracting passionate and dedicated staff who are willing to work long-hours for little pay during this period that we only rely on seed funding from family and friends.
What are you doing this 2013?
In 2013, we are planning to hire more full-time employees, market Ma3Route to the public, fundraise, and take Ma3Route to major towns in Kenya outside of Nairobi, a process which includes gathering data for these towns. Finally, we also intend to develop the Ma3Route application on more smart phone platforms (iOS, Blackberry, Symbian, and Windows). We are running on Web, Android and SMS.
These activities will help scale Ma3Route over the next six months to have a greater user base in Nairobi and a wider reach across major Kenyan towns. We are eventually planning to be Africa-wide but are looking to perfect our business model in Kenya first before scaling to other countries.
Is this your first break?
I built Gigmoo, an industry-focused social networking site(yet to be launched), and
Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA)’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System