Cape Town-based GoMetro has unveiled a new mobi site in 11 official languages dubbed GoMetro Mini designed for older phones, making it the first transport app that is truly accessible to all South Africans.
Users will be able to choose from Sepedi, Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, Tswana, Venda, Tsonga, Ndebele, Swati & Afrikaans to get train and bus times for all major cities in South Africa, in their own mother tongue.
Instead of typing in www.gometro.co.za, users who want to access this simpler version of the site, just need to place an “m.” in front of the usual web address – www.m.gometro.co.za. GoMetro Mini is optimized to use a minimal amount of data to access the same service as the full site. It is designed to work best with an older Blackberry or a Nokia phone – these market segments which are still very strong in South Africa.
GoMetro Mini is the brain-child of Reginald Ledwaba, an intern working for GoMetro, who championed the idea and led its rapid development at the end of 2014. After observing that high data charges were preventing commuters from accessing GoMetro, the CEO Justin Coetzee challenged Reginald to build a multi-lingual and simplified version of the site that is optimized for these older devices, and for people who would not have accessed the internet at all yet. Reginald was able to complete this project in less than 20 days – and it is this product that GoMetro is launching to the public today as GoMetro Mini.
Reginald grew up in the Ledwaba Village, Zebediela in Limpopo province, and was the only student in his matric class from Maditsi High School who received a University Exemption to study a Science degree. He enrolled at the University of Limpopo with limited funds, but did well, receiving a sponsorship for exceptional performance for his second and third year. After completing his degree, Reginald wished to enroll in the CapaCITI programme, an advanced training and job placement programme in Cape Town, run in partnership with IBM, in order to enhance his programming skills and ensure his job readiness. Reginald gathered his possessions, all of which could fit into a single, medium-sized bag, and boarded the bus to Cape Town. Failure was not an option for him, as he did not have enough money to make the return trip from Cape Town to Limpopo. During this programme, his work ethic and performance was noticed by GoMetro’s management, and an internship offer ensued. He has worked very hard since joining the team and is a contributor to a Cape Town-based startup solving a very important problem – improving the customer experience of public transport in emerging markets like South Africa.
GoMetro was recently recognized on the global stage, winning a MEF Award at the Global Mobile Forum in San Francisco, for the Best Innovation in a Growth Market – as well as runner-up at the International Get in the Ring Business Investment Pitching Competition, in Rotterdam, Netherlands. This was for providing Metrorail commuters with the latest, up-to-date schedules, as well as real-time announcements direct from Metrorail control-centres on delays and cancellations, by an innovative dedicated mobile channel.
GoMetro CEO Justin Coetzee, “Over the last 2 years, we have noticed GoMetro is sometimes the first internet site that a commuter from a township in South Africa will have ever visited. Local transport information is very relevant content for commuters of all languages, and hearing about GoMetro motivates some users to try use the internet for the very first time. It is a real honour to be the first experience of the internet for thousands of commuters in post-apartheid urban South Africa. We want their first Internet experience to be easy-to-use and of immediate benefit – which is why we have released GoMetro Mini. This will allow these first-time internet users to access the digital economy and the associated opportunities. We are particularly proud of the design and thought that has gone into making this a fast yet usable site, saving commuters money on their data usage. We are also seeking to attract the attention of a mobile network operator, to offer GoMetro to commuters at a zero data charge on a network.”
GoMetro has received support and backing from the Innovation Hub, being a winner of the Gauteng Innovation Competition in 2012, as well as from the Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town, being part of their 2013 VeloCITI Programme. In December 2014, operators in Metrorail control-centres used the GoMetro Engine to post 52 191 events and service updates, to over 250,000 commuters via apps, a mobisite, a Mxit Channel, a USSD string and SMS. GoMetro has also expanded to include information on the Rea Vaya, MyCiti, Gautrain and Golden Arrow services.
The app is available on different communications platforms, including USSD: *120*4668#, Mxit apps, apps for Android and iOS, WhatsApp group updates, content partnerships with “News24” and “Die Son”, a mobile site: GoMetroApp.com and the new Mini site.