When it comes to better understanding the transportation needs of cities in Kenya, a lot of importance needs to be placed on developing solutions that will make cities more efficient. This is why Uber and Utopia, an urban mobility innovation group, partnered with the University of Nairobi to launch the Mobility Challenge, as part of the University of Nairobi’s Innovation Fellowship, to encourage students to develop solutions to address diverse congestion and transportation challenges in Nairobi.
The Innovation Fellowship provided 15 fellows from the University of Nairobi an opportunity to solve real-life local problems while applying human-centered design thinking methodologies.
One of the prevalent challenges in public transport is that of safety, especially for women. A team of six, comprising students from the University of Nairobi and Aalto University in Finland, developed a campaign to address safety issues faced by women while using public transport. The multidisciplinary team combined expertise in engineering, business and design to tackle the challenges of the project. The team’s proposed solution is Service Conductor, a digital training program for conductors and operators in the matatu industry on topics such as customer service and harassment.
The second project, Mwendo Mtaani, piloted social campaigns to address the challenges faced by persons with disabilities when using public transport. Some of the key issues faced by persons with disabilities include stigmatization, incidences of gender-based violence against female travellers and persons with disabilities, as well as lack of reliable channels to report complaints while using public transport.
Dr Tonny Omwasa, Director of the University of Nairobi’s Innovation Hub says: “The University of Nairobi C4DLab is built on the premise of using innovation and research, while leveraging a network of students and private sector partners, to develop solutions that address core issues in the society. We are pleased to have partnered with Uber and Utopia to provide insights and support to the students working on the projects addressing challenges in urban mobility. We are confident that these research projects will evolve to shape policy on urban mobility in Nairobi.
“The future of urban mobility is constantly changing and developing. Data and research are key to unlocking the potential in our cities. This is why we partnered with the University of Nairobi and Utopia to support students as they investigate and propose diverse solutions to challenges that people face every day while commuting from one place to another in Nairobi. We are proud of the students who put in months of effort to research the issues in public transport. We launched Uber Movement and Speeds in Nairobi to effectively evaluate where the city can make investments in transportation infrastructure using relevant data”, says Cezanne Maherali, Head of Public Policy for Uber in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Uber and the University of Nairobi have also entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to promote smart mobility and develop an ecosystem of researchers and entrepreneurs with a shared vision while supporting applied research in innovation and application in society.
Research and access to tools such as Uber Movement can play a crucial role in tackling some of the mobility issues in Nairobi by informing decisions about how to best adapt to existing infrastructure and invest in future solutions that will make the city more efficient and address congestion issues.
C4DLab is a prototyping an innovative startup incubation lab at the School of Computing and Informatics, University of Nairobi. The lab was founded in 2013 as the first phase of a bigger complex CC4D (Center of Computing for Development). The lab works with the entire university community, with a reach to a community of more than 70,000 people, including faculty, students, staff and alumni.