Tech could revolutionize transport for low-income communities in urban Africa

Peer-to-peer communication between commuters has the potential to revolutionize the transport sector for low-income urban communities across Africa, providing historically disadvantaged communities with safer and shorter daily commutes.

Disruptive technology and the sharing economy have completely transformed the transport and mobility sector by creating more on-demand, consumer-centric models. Until now, however, the accessibility and convenience of these new models have largely been enjoyed in the West only, according to an article published as part of the upcoming World Economic Forum Annual Meeting.

South Africa’s low-income urban communities in particular are in need of a transport revolution. Historically disadvantaged after decades of apartheid, many poor people often have to travel long distances in their daily commute, forced to use inadequate and informal modes of transport such as minibus taxis. Nearly 70 per cent of South African households use minibus taxes in their transport mix, but these journeys are often unpredictable and high risk, explains the article.

While some South African apps are trying to replicate the new models enjoyed in the West, they have been of limited success, often due to limited information. The challenge of tracking vehicles could be overcome, however, by using peer-to-peer or P2P communication between commuters, which can help generate the data and information needed by users to track unscheduled transport services.

“For commuters relying on minibus taxis and trains, this information will increase the predictability of their journey, allowing for better time management, route choice, and improved personal safety. It will also give lower-income communities access to a more consumer-centric model, usually reserved for premium services like Uber,” explains Nicolette van Niekerk, transport specialist at Pegasys Strategy and Development.

Image credit: Michael Denne via Flickr

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