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New Apps Make Driving and Travelling in Egypt Easier, Safer

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Mobile phones are ubiquitous across the global South. They have spawned whole new business opportunities and changed the way people solve problems and find solutions.

Sub-Saharan Africa is now home to approximately 650 million mobile phone subscribers, more than the United States and the European Union (World Bank).  A recent World Bank report estimated mobile phones led directly to the creation of 5 million jobs in Africa in 2012, contributing to seven per cent of Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Mobile phones have also led to contests and challenges, set up to spark further innovation in this area and spur the development of so-called “apps”, or applications, to run on these electronic devices.

These prizes encourage and reward useful innovation that directly tackles the problems and challenges of the South.

In Cairo, Egypt – a city notorious for some of the worst traffic congestion in the world – many have been trying to find smart solutions to the gridlock. The World Bank says in its Cairo Traffic Congestion Study that the annual cost of congestion in Cairo is estimated at up to US $8 billion. This is four per cent of Egypt’s gross domestic product (GDP) – four times the impact on national GDP experienced by other comparable large cities. The study found that at least 1,000 Cairo residents die each year in traffic-related accidents, more than half of them pedestrians. And rapid growth in the city is making it ever-harder to get on top of the problem.

Rising traffic congestion is a problem around the world. In the United States, traffic jumped 236 per cent as the population grew by 20 per cent between 1982 and 2001 (IBM).

The IBM Commuter Pain Study conducted in 2011, ranking the emotional and economic toll of commuting in 20 international cities, found that the commute in Beijing is four times more painful than the commute in Los Angeles or New York, and seven times more painful than the commute in Stockholm.

Commuter pain leads to productivity loss as people lose time stuck in traffic and fuel is wasted as engines idle in traffic jams – not to mention damage to the environment from the increased pollution.

According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 95 per cent of congestion growth in the coming years will be in developing countries. Even in developed countries like the United States, in 2000, the average driver experienced 27 hours of delays (up seven hours from 1980) (MIT Press). This ballooned to 136 hours in Los Angeles.

Developing countries are seeing vehicle numbers rise by between 10 and 30 per cent per year (World Bank). In economic hotspots, growth is even faster.

The Cairo Transport App Challenge (https://www.facebook.com/CairoTransportAppChallenge) is a contest aimed at taming the city’s traffic chaos. It is hosted by the Technology Innovation Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC) (http://www.tiec.gov.eg/en-us/Pages/default.aspx) and is organized by the World Bank in collaboration with others.

The contest’s press release says it aims to connect transport and urban development experts with volunteer technology communities to build “applications to address pressing transport challenges in Cairo through leveraging the new information and communication technologies (ICT) – such as mobile phones, smartphones and GPS-enabled devices – as well as the talent of Egyptian software developers and innovators.”

The first winner of the US $3,000 in prize money is a mobile phone app that helps drivers get help on the road and with car maintenance.

Users can use the Belya app to find the best routes, and to get help if their vehicle breaks down. The app is essentially a portable virtual car mechanic. It uses Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to locate service centres, which are then contacted when somebody needs help. The app gives details to the repair shop on what is wrong, the date and time.

“It is also linked to the General Traffic Administration, to provide quick and regular updates of the traffic situation,” according to a statement from Egypt’s Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, which awarded the prize.

The content’s second prize was won by E-mokhalfa (http://www.emokhalfa.com/emokhalfa/),which helps communities create safer roads by using peer pressure to make drivers behave better. Third place went to the app called “Where is my bus?” (https://twitter.com/AutobeesyFeen). It helps passengers find bus stations, routes, journey times and all mass transport options on their mobile phones.

Published: February 2013

Resources

1) A guide to making mobile phone apps: Here are some resources to building your own phone app online or through a provider. Website:http://www.brandignity.com/2011/03/building-mobile-iphone-phone-app-onlin/

2) Android: Android is the world’s most popular mobile platform. Website: android.com

3) Arab Republic of Egypt, Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. Website: http://www.mcit.gov.eg/

4) IBM Smart Traffic: IBM Intelligent Transportation, a compliment to the Intelligent Operations Center for Smarter Cities, enables advanced analysis of the many factors that make up traffic flow, and gives planners and responders a comprehensive look at the state of their city’s roadways on ground level. Website:http://www.ibm.com/smarterplanet/eg/en/traffic_congestion/ideas/index.html

5) Southern Innovator Magazine Issue 1: Mobile Phones and Information Technology. Website:http://www.scribd.com/doc/95410448/Southern-Innovator-Magazine-Issue-1-Mobile-Phones-and-Information-Technology

Southern Innovator logo

London Edit

31 July 2013

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Lagos Traffic Crunch Gets a New Solution

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Around the world, traffic congestion is often accepted as the price paid for rapid development and a dynamic economy. But as anyone who lives in a large city knows, there comes a tipping point where the congestion begins to harm economic activity by wasting people’s time in lengthy and aggravating commuting, and leaving commuters frazzled and burned out by the whole experience.

According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 95 per cent of congestion growth in the coming years will be in developing countries. Even in developed countries like the United States, in 2000, the average driver experienced 27 hours of delays (up seven hours from 1980) (MIT Press). This balloons to 136 hours in Los Angeles.

Developing countries are seeing vehicle numbers rise by between 10 and 30 per cent per year (World Bank). In economic hotspots, growth is even faster.

Lagos, Nigeria, the throbbing business hub of West Africa’s most populous nation, has a network of over 2,700 km of roads with a vehicle density of 740 vehicles per kilometre (E.I. Bello). All those cars consume over 85 per cent of the petroleum products imported into the country – a costly expense for a country that actually imports oil. All this driving is necessary because the city has no rail or sea mass transit system and all movements of people and goods are by road.

Nigeria suffers from the irony of being a country that makes 95 per cent of its export earnings and 80 per cent of its revenue from oil, yet has to import most of its fuel because its refineries are constantly breaking down.

The overwhelming majority of mega-cities are now located in developing countries, including sprawling conurbations such as São Paulo, Brazil (18.8 million inhabitants in 2007), Delhi, India (15.9 million), and Manila, Philippines (11.1 million). By 2015 Lagos will have 12.8 million inhabitants and by 2025, it is estimated it will have 16.8 million citizens.

That will be a lot of cars and frustrated people trying to get around.

One project trying to alleviate the pain of a daily commute in the city is called Traffic (Traffic.com.ng). The computer application, or ‘app’, has a live feed of traffic on its homepage, collecting information from a wide variety of sources: the web, mobile phones and SMS (short message service) text messages sent in by mobile telephone. The service is also looking to extract information from microblogging site Twitter (twitter.com).

The service says it aims to “reduce stress on Lagos road by providing up-to-the-minute traffic status in the state.”

It uses the powerful concept of ‘crowdsourcing’, in which a large group of people contributes to solve a problem by combining the technological power of mobile phones and the Internet. These two technologies mean it is possible to solve problems in real time and draw on a very large group of people spread out over a wide geographical area.

So, how does it work? A user can go to the homepage and click “View Traffic Report From” and see live data streaming in. If the user wants to see traffic conditions in a particular area, they type in the road and area in a box on the page and click to see the report.

Those who are stuck in a traffic jam and want to alert others can send an SMS message with the keywords to 07026702053.

The Traffic app came under scrutiny by the anonymous blogger Cherchez la Curl, whose blog is about “celebrating African women and natural hair”: “It’s no Einstein-worthy revelation to say that solving Lagos’ traffic problem (and, more generally, improving Nigeria’s poor transportation network) is one of the keys to sustaining growth and economic development in Nigeria,” the blog said.

The blog’s author found the service was still in its early days: “While the idea is a fantastic application of modern technology to developing Africa, the only problem I see is that it seems like no-one is sending through traffic alerts! On a recent visit to the site, the alert stream was empty of alerts save for a few tweets. It’s a shame as this service would be extremely handy as a counterpoint/band-aid whilst government sorts out the root cause of the traffic.”

It sounds like it is still early days for the Traffic app and Lagos residents will be its harshest critics.

Published: January 2012

Resources

1) LagosMet.com: An Internet bulletin board offering rolling updates on Lagos traffic and security reports. Users can also post their reports. Website: http://lagosmet.com

2) eNowNow: A website offering live updates on Lagos traffic congestion. Website: http://traffic.enownow.com

3) SENSEable City: A project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s SENSEable City Laboratory to use the new generation of sensors and hand-held electronics to change how cities are understood and navigated. This includes creating real-time maps of cities that can then be used to help with avoiding traffic congestion and other problems. Website: http://senseable.mit.edu

4) Mobility 2001: World Mobility at the End of the Twentieth Century and its Sustainability published by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Website: http://www.wbcsd.org

5) Lagos Traffic Crowdmap: A mix of user-contributed reports on the traffic conditions in Lagos. Website: https://lagostraffic.crowdmap.com/main

6) A study of Urban Traffic Management – A Case Study of Lagos State Traffic Management Authority by E. I, Bello et al., 2009. Website: http://www.scientific.net/AMR.62-64.599

7) Cities for All: An interview on book seeking to find solutions to the congested cities of the South. Website: http://globalurbanist.com/2010/08/24/cities-for-all-shows-how-the-worlds-poor-are-building-tiesacross-the-global-south

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

Entrepreneurs Use Mobiles and IT to Tackle Indian Traffic Gridlock

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Around the world, traffic congestion is often accepted as the price paid for rapid development and economic dynamism. But as anyone who lives in a large city knows, a tipping point is soon reached where the congestion begins to harm economic activity by wasting people’s time in lengthy and aggravating commuting, and leaving them frazzled and burned out by the whole experience. According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 95 percent of congestion growth in the coming years will come from developing countries. Even in developed countries like the United States, in 2000, the average driver experienced 27 hours of delays (up seven hours from 1980) (MIT Press). This balloons to 136 hours in Los Angeles.

Developing countries are growing their vehicle numbers by between 10 and 30 percent per year (World Bank). In economic hotspots, growth is even faster. In India, the cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore account for five percent of the nation’s population but have 14 percent of the total registered vehicles. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, Kenya, Mexico and Chile, 50 percent of cars are in the capital cities (www.peopleandplanet.net).

India’s Koolpool is stepping in with a 21st century upgrade to the old concept of carpooling. India’s first carpooling service (in which drivers share rides to reduce congestion and save money) uses the power of the country’s mobile phone network to link up people by SMS (short message service) text. Already launched in Mumbai, it is being rolled out in other cities as well.

Koolpool surveyed Indian drivers and found that the average car only had two passengers. Koolpool is an idea from the Mumbai Environmental Social Network (MESN), a registered charity with the mandate to come up with innovative solutions to environmental and infrastructure problems. Its goal is to prove “low-cost and high efficiency IT-based solutions are the way of the future. With no gestation period and minimal investment, they are profitable and more importantly for us, people friendly.” Koolpool claims that an increase from 1.7 passengers per vehicle to 2.04 will decrease travel time and pollution levels by 25 percent. It also claims to be the first carpooling service to combine SMS text messaging and IT.

Ride-givers send a text message to Koolpool just before going down a major road. Koolpool then sends a list of ride seekers on the route, their membership identifications, the designated stopping point for pick-up, number of riders and login time. If there are no ride givers on that route, then ride seekers are pooled together to get a taxi and share the costs. Members of Koolpool pay an annual membership fee and exchange credits by mobile phone between ride seekers and ride givers, which are then redeemed at gas stations for petrol.

And Koopool comes at just the right time: congestion in India will probably only get worse in the near term, as the government pledges to build even more roads and make the country’s cities “the flyover capital of Asia”.

In Kolkata, says Sudarsanam Padam, former director of the Central Institute of Road Transport in the city of Pune, the average speed during peak hours in the central business district (CBD) area is as low as seven km/hr. Bangalore currently has average speeds of about 13-15 km/hr in its CBD, but this is expected to go down to three to eight km/hr in the next 15 years, according to the city’s police traffic commissioner, M N Reddi.

Published: June 2007

Resources

  • Mobility 2001: World Mobility at the End of the Twentieth Century and its Sustainability published by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.
  • Another Indian car pooling business allows people to post requests for rides on an internet bulletin board, Car Sales India.
  • Another solution to traffic congestion has been the motorcycle taxi. Beginning in Thailand, motorcycle taxis can now be found in Cambodia, India and the UK. Read more at here.
  • SENSEable City: A project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s SENSEable City Laboratory to use the new generation of sensors and hand-held electronics to change how cities are understood and navigated. This includes creating real-time maps of cities that can then be used to help with avoiding traffic congestion and other problems.
  • Read more about India’s traffic congestion problem by India’s only science and environment biweekly online newsletter, Down to Earth.

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022