Using Cell Phones to Map Informal Urban Transport Routes

Using cell phone technology, Digital Matatus has collected detailed information on the 3,000 stops of the 130 routes that make up Nairobi’s informal public transport system. The data has been translated into physical and digital maps and uploaded to Google Maps, making it the first informal transit system searchable in Google Transit. 

Digital Matatus illustrates how anyone can leverage mobile technology in developing countries to collect data on essential infrastructure.

Sarah WilliamsCo-Founder, Digital Matatus

Making this data understandable enables riders to take more efficient, better-planned journeys, whilst allowing city officials to better manage road networks, maintenance schedules and traffic congestion. These usage and planning improvements are crucial for a well-functioning and efficient urban transit network. After its successful run in Nairobi, Digital Matatus plans to expand to other fast-growing cities in the developing world.

Why you should care

In 2014, 40% of Africa’s population lived in urban areas, and by 2050 this figure will rise to 56%. Such rapid urbanization will require efficient urban transportation systems. By mapping informal transit routes and sharing this information openly, Digital Matatus makes it easier for residents and city officials alike to better navigate and manage urban transportation networks and traffic flows.

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