Digital Matatus/Transport and Equity: A Smart Approach

Launched in September 2012, this project builds on ongoing work of the core partners: the Center for Sustainable Urban Development (CSUD) at Columbia University and the School of Computing and Informatics (SCI) at the University of Nairobi. Our overarching questions are:

  1. What would smart sustainable transport look like in the case of Nairobi, East Africa’s largest metropolis and economic hub? In particular, which cultural, political and technological access points might improve the existing public transportation system and how can citizens -- particularly the poorer majority -- be more involved in shaping and designing solutions to transportation issues in their cities?
  2. How can cities better integrate planning, investment and regulation of formal and informal transport systems in ways that benefit the urban poor?

Besides conducting cutting edge institutional analysis in the transportation sector, this project will support innovative methods for collecting key data and analyzing /visualizing/presenting it in clear ways. This is part of a broader aim of making the transportation system more clearly understood by citizens as well as planners and other experts as an important step in improving regulation and policies. By harnessing technology and directly engaging users, operators and owners of the system, we aim to develop bottom up methods to enhance data collection on the existing transportation system. We also will work on innovative and culturally appropriate ways to present and visualize data for transport planners, engineers, policymakers and the general public.  As Nairobi is becoming a key center for social media and geo-locative technologies this also makes it possible for our team, which includes local technologists and transportation experts, to explore possible lightweight interventions to improve the system using combinations of communication technologies, while at the same time raising awareness of the broader policy and implementation issues at stake.

Our project focuses on the transportation system used by the majority including the poor: walking, bicycles and motor-cycles, popularly known as boda boda, rail, matatus and buses.

Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation as part of its “Catalyzing the New Mobility in Cities” project, CSUD will be working with the following organizations and invididuals on this project:

CSUD is very pleased that the University of Nairobi received a separate grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to support their students and faculty who are key partners in this collaboration.

The project has led to the highly successful DigitalMatatus work and the first open data set and public transit map for Nairobi.