Africa's Public Transport Sector Can Learn From Curitiba's Smart Buses [opinion]
(AllAfrica Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) On Wednesday morning, in the thick of the night at 2 AM, a bus overturned on its way from Narok town to Nairobi, killing 41. This brings those killed on Kenyan roads to more than 2,000, this year alone. Matatus, as public buses are known in Kenya, are notorious for bad driving and not sticking to set traffic rules. The bus here was said to be overloaded and speeding.
A number of laws have been set in the past to curb the high number of accidents.
Michuki rules, as the laws are known as, came into effect in February 2004. The laws tackled speeding through introduction of speed governors, passenger safety through introduction of speed belts,and in addition, required vehicles to operate within certain routes.
The laws however lasted a few months, before bribing ensured that the rules no longer applied.
In 2012, the government increased the amount of traffic fines, in a bid to discourage driving habits such as use of wrong lanes, pavements, footpaths and speeding, amongst other traffic vices in Kenya. The move, instead, saw the amount of bribes asked by traffic policemen going up.
Recently, a school bus accident that killed more than 20 students in an overloaded bus in Kisii saw the government banning night travel for school buses in Kenya.
When it comes to laws and policies, Kenya has many of them, and all with good intention. Implementation though, has remained almost non existent. The Kenya Police has consistently topped Transparency International's bribery index as the most corrupt institution in Kenya.
Crime also plagues public transport, especially in Nairobi and on inter-city buses. Recently, the Police went as fas as issuing an advisory on a particular bus company, saying that the company's buses were so much prone to hijacking that it was suspected the bus crews were colluding with robbers.
Kenya, dubbed the Silicon Savannah, and is often said to be Africa's most technologically innovative nation.
The country can learn from the city of Curitiba, in Brazil, which has connected 2,500 of the city's 5,500 buses to a mobile phone network. The project was done by Vivo, a mobile phone provider in Brazil, alongside Dataprom, a transport solutions provider and Ericsson, who provide connectivity.
The client, Curitiba's public transport authority, URSB, can now monitor bus routes, time spent by buses at bus stops, speed, distance travelled, and times for arrival and departure. In turn, the city can now alert citizens on arrival and departure times of buses.
The system also provides CCTV monitoring on the 22 bus companies that ply the city of 3.5 million. The CCTV records can be called for a particular bus, or submitted if a panic button is pressed. This has helped improve the security of buses.
The solution also provides WiFi on buses for the city's residents, and also processes electronic card payments
Additionally, the solution has seen the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in Curitiba. Making buses more efficient results in them consuming lesser fuel, and also sees city residents using buses more than their cars, again resulting in lesser fuel consumption.
A similar fleet management solution in Kenya could result in the same benefits. Public service vehicles would be remotely and automatically monitored for speeding and location. The system can also be tweaked to provide additional functionality, such as monitoring overloading. The information collected from vehicles can also help in monitoring and controlling traffic flow.
Already, there are efforts towards smarter bus solutions. Equity Bank is providing Google's BebaPay bus payment solution. Kenya Bus also has its own bus payment card, while Safaricom is providing WiFi on public buses, and also has a public transport campaign dubbed "Toa Sauti". The campaign encourages public bus users to speak out against the crew on bad driving and other issues.
With technology having transformed money transfer in Kenya, much can be achieved in Africa's turbulent transport sector with Ericsson's Smarter Buses solution.
The writer has been writing at CIO East Africa Magazine and CIO.co.ke since May 2010. His key focus is the use of technology to solve day to day business challenges and product reviews. Mbuvi has been invited to speak at various IT, Telecom and Media events in the region. He was also a keynote speaker at the inaugural Joomla day in Kenya talking on possibilities of the Joomla Content Management System. Mbuvi holds a B.Sc in Computer Science degree from Kenyatta University.
Copyright CIO East Africa. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).
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