Just the other day as I was in a matatu heading to town I wondered when Kenya would have computerized or digitized transport system. As the passengers complained that they were either dropped too far from their wanted destination or sometimes they protested about the price. There are many mishaps when it comes to our transport system in Kenya. Unfortunately Kenyans do not have much of an option when it comes to public transport; we are left with rumors about the preferred good matatus but nothing more than that. At other times we are conned by touts as they sometimes add their own amounts to get extra money, exploiting passengers. This is why when I heard about the developers of Magic Bus Ticketing I was excited.
Magic Bus Ticketing is a mobile phone application that enables booking of public transport, have secured $101 million which is 101 million Kenya shillings from a Bill Clinton-backed fund. The winners emerged as one of the top out of six finalists. The competition came about as a challenge for the Hultz Prize, funded by Clinton whose contest this year was the creation of a better model to connect to goods and services in crowded urban spaces. At first the contest had 25,000 entries which were shortlisted to six finalists. The developers contained a group of students from Earlham College Wycliffe Omondi, Leslie Osette, Iman Cooper and Sonia Kabra. The genius group managed to have a pilot study in Kenya with matatus from Rongai and BuruBuru available for booking and prepayment on the app. This was a wise move as both places are densely populated.
One thing that helped the group was their connection to the sacco’s. The sacco’s were very willing and ready to implement the new system. The app is usually offline which works via a short code (USSD), which then instructs the users to select their route, pick-up and drop-off points before offering the selection of matatus that are available and the estimated pick-up time. The user can also select their vehicle of preference then proceed to pay and move to the bus stop within expected arrival time of the vehicle. Those who have not booked before would be able to pay for their fare on board. The team plans to get travel companies on board to cut the need for commuters to walk to bus offices to make bookings. The launch will take place after they do some more research in the market.