Whether you’re in Ghana where the trotos’s are, on a jitney in the Philippines or in a sometimes ironically named ‘car rapide’ in Senegal, there’s no escaping the fact that informal transport exists in every major city in the world. Even more intriguingly, the innovation and agility displayed in these emerging markets have begun to influence the way developed transport systems in the USA and Europe alike – in a concept called “Mobility-as-a-Service”.
The latest review of Cape Town’s Comprehensive Integrated Transport Plan (CITP) estimated that there were about 23 758 minibus taxi vehicles registered as of May 2015. This mode of informal transport provide connections between various origin and destination pairs within the City, and it is estimated that there are around 800 routes carrying approximately 556 720 passengers per day. Due to the informal nature of their services, it is difficult to know exactly how many routes or passengers are utilizing this type of mode, and therefore it is very difficult to plan or regulate this mode – until now.
On 15 May innovative mobility startup GoMetro, domiciled in South Africa, announced it is partnering with international technology distribution and development firm, GMG Technology, domiciled in Mauritius, to launch the transport mapping and data collection platform, GoMetro Pro, to the global markets through a distribution, product development and internationalization agreement.
“Thanks to our partnership with GMG Technology and their deep experience and know-how in the distribution and development of enterprise software for the international market, GoMetro Pro has a self-service platform – so users anywhere in the world can log in and build their own projects themselves,” says CEO and GoMetro founder Justin Coetzee.
“GMG Technologies focuses on bringing innovative technology to the global market and enhancing these technologies through further development to bring maximum value to our customers, our partnership with GoMetro is a perfect illustration of this and we are very excited about the incredible work done so far. This technology will have a very real impact on the way cities are planned, companies organize staff movements and how people run their daily lives. We are proud to be part of this and we will continue to work together to keep adding more value to the platform.’ Says Richard Dewing, Director of GMG Technologies.
“Better data management from something like the GoMetro Pro app leads to better regulation, which leads to better licensing and planning. This in turn leads to better operations and better passenger information available, which means better revenues and profits for the owners. Everybody wins,” said Coetzee. Because the system works with the data that’s there on the ground, no matter how chaotic, you can turn any unscheduled, highly informal transport system in any country into one that’s scheduled, on-demand and thus convenient, and fully operational in real time. It may well be the great equalizer of public transport systems worldwide, lessening the gap between ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ with just one platform.
What sets GoMetro as a platform apart is both the sheer amount of data it creates – more than 500 000 kilometers, which is more than 11 trips around the Earth – as well as the accuracy and rapid deployment of onboard vehicle survey methodology. “The Onboard Surveys are critical – it’s the only application that collects all the information you need to profile a route, a vehicle and a passenger at the same time on any transport network, providing unprecedented data on urban mobility,” explains Coetzee. The result is a grassroots approach that tells researchers on the ground, current information about a route and transport method as experienced by passengers and drivers alike.
Recently Transitec, an international transport planning firm, together with France’s Agence Française de Développement, used GoMetro Pro to do onboard data collection in Tunis for their transport systems. Comprehensive data was able to be harvested from 25 stations throughout the city, using GPS tracking and economical analysis. More than 50 routes and 6 kilometers’ worth of data were harvested across multiple vehicles, as well as the ‘mapping’ of both drivers and passengers using qualitative interviews, cellphones, mappers and other technology to get authentic on-the-street information. Rollout and implementation of system improvements and upgrades were ready in just four short weeks, meaning that all that was required was police authorization, and the Tunisian government had a new and improved way for busses to move in just a month.
GoMetro Pro will create a wealth of data and the means to put it to use – not just for civil engineers or town planning authorities, but anyone who downloads the rider app. Even better, people worldwide will have access immediately. “The software will be available globally from 15 May to be used by anyone who downloads the app, whether they are in Eastern Europe, Africa, Latin America or anywhere else in the world where informal transport networks are dominant” promised Coetzee.
Building Africa’s Century
The 4th industrial revolution will be on the agenda of this week’s Gartner IT Symposium in Cape Town. Doug Woolley, GM of Dell Technologies South Africa, ponders its meaning for Africa
Is this Africa’s Century, as President Cyril Ramaphosa said at the recent WEF on Africa gathering? I believe so. The event made solid headway in charting a course forward for African-centric solutions to our challenges.
Technology featured often in discussions and the 4th Industrial Revolution was a central theme. Many of the outcomes also tied to a more connected digital world. But those are the broad strokes. What happens next?
An important avenue can be found in all the individual investments made inside societies, such as broadband. The spread of connectivity is in part due to telecommunications firms being mandated by the Government to reach rural and under-serviced communities. But the major momentum behind broadband stems from demand. From individuals to enterprises, a hungry broadband market has helped South Africa become much more connected.
This paradigm applies to other technology investments as well. All of them add up to support the ideas and advancements that were discussed at WEF on Africa. The need for better services and performance through technology stokes the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s engine. Every network, every datacentre, every smartphone is a piece of the puzzle that will create Africa’s Century.
We are further along the curve than most people realise. If I can judge a country’s potential based on how digitally mature its organisations are, then South Africa is not in bad shape. Earlier this year, the annual Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index ranked South Africa in the top ten, ahead of most developed nations. The investments made by the Public and Private sectors are taking root.
It may not make headlines, but all these individual ambitions pointing in the same direction are building the change we all want to see.
This brings me to the Gartner IT Symposium Xpo, the business-technology event taking place at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 16 to 18 September. If WEF on Africa challenged for solutions at a high level, then the Gartner Symposium is where those individual investments come into play.
The nitty-gritty of the 4IR era will be on the Symposium agenda. Research by World Wide Worx on the uptake of 4IR technologies among South African enterprises will be presented tomorrow (Tuesday) by one of the company’s data analysts, Bryan Turner.
I also anticipate discussions about multi-cloud. Cloud has grown tremendously as African organisations saw the progress that came with investing in it, connectivity and data – the core ingredients of the 4IR era. Now they are looking ahead to what can be done next: that multi-cloud is on the agenda shows how Africa’s technology capability is growing.
Unified workspaces will be another good conversation topic. What happens in the office doesn’t stay in the office. Our technology habits follow us home and, more often, our home habits follow us to the ofﬁce. This makes perfect sense, because 4IR is primarily about people being empowered by technology. Our workplace technology habits are microcosms of our overall use of technology.
Multi-cloud is the ‘infrastructure’ of the 4IR conversation and the workplace is where these technologies deliver some of their value. Considerable buzz is growing around unified workspaces, which make office environments more manageable and secure while reshaping them to fit the needs of modern employees.
Stop by the Dell Technologies stand and see how we’re helping create that momentum with multi-cloud, unified workspaces and through many other channels, including skills development and supporting SMMEs to grow.
How do we create Africa’s Century? Through those individual investments that collectively stoke the engines of our country and continent. It’s not just for the big players: 4IR can provide for every organisation regardless of size. Those investments are investments in the future of Africa.
PayPal pictures how the future will be won – or lost
By AAYUSH SINGHANIA, director of Commercial Operations for PayPal Cross-Border Trade Markets
There’s no doubt that technology has already re-shaped the way the world thinks about buying and selling. Who would have thought twenty years ago that people would be shopping on their phones?
Despite the huge changes to the shopping experience in recent years, it’s important to understand that we are only part-way through this journey. We are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution, and as technologies continue to advance, and we as a society adapt our behaviours, new opportunities and risks will present themselves to merchants of all sizes.
Here is where I see the future of commerce being won and lost, as we continue on this technology journey:
Meeting ever-increasing demand for personalised experiences
We’ve already witnessed the transition of commerce from brick and mortar to the web, and then from the web to mobile. The next phase of internet-connected devices will make commerce even more contextual whereby anything you can interact with can be a platform for commerce. Imagine being able to point your phone at your best friend’s shoes, and almost instantly they are in your shopping cart, ready to be delivered to your home?
Mobile has already made shopping an “all the time” activity and has given us a taste of what it’s like to have hyper-personalised experiences. While a consumer walking into a retail store is limited by physical space, the online world offers an unlimited shelf for merchants to deliver tailored customer experiences. Looking ahead, innovations in artificial intelligence and machine learning hold great promise to further deliver on this hyper-personalisation, by being able to learn about who a consumer really is as a person and their individual preferences.
As a result of this evolution, customers have moved from being surprised and delighted by personalised experiences to expect them in every context. Many customers, for example, now get frustrated when they receive advertisements for products that they’ve already bought, or have no interest in. This shift has made it critical for merchants to avoid delivering homogenous experiences to shoppers who demand personalised interactions across all contexts. In doing so, it’s important that merchants find a balance between personalising their offerings and ensuring consumers don’t feel their privacy is being invaded. Shoppers want to feel like a brand understands them, but isn’t stalking them, particularly in the wake of several high-profile data breaches.
Closing the consumer fulfilment gap to deliver seamless experiences
With new advancements in technology comes the ability to create seamless customer experiences that narrow the gap between customer desire and fulfilment. Gone are the days where shoppers decided to purchase an item and they were happy to wait a week to receive it – for many, two-day shipping still isn’t quick enough. The invention of the internet meant people could shop from home, and recently we’ve seen this evolve further where consumers prefer to shop on-the-go via mobile.
The big question is, what’s next? We’re already seeing the growth of commerce through technologies like AI-enabled voice assistants and virtual reality, so it’s critical that merchants keep pace with innovations that enable them to close the gap between desire and purchase in a delightful way.
At the end of the day, businesses need to remember that the act of filling up a cart and the process of checking out is not the fun part of making a purchase – these are points of friction – and technology is the answer to removing these frustrations for customers.
Managing customer reactions to technology disruption
Every tech disruption in its early days delivers excitement, fear, anxiety and doubt – not necessarily in that order. We all go through a phase of tech humanisation, because technology grows as we do – and we help shape the development of new solutions.
Technology has been used for good and bad, and technology that causes eye-raising experiences at the start will generally normalise in time. Remember the first video cameras on phones? As people learned how to use the technology, content got posted that shouldn’t have. Everything from the telephone, to radio and the television all caused concern and were initially criticised when first introduced to the public, but with time they’ve become part of our everyday lives. As technology evolves, companies learn from it, and the acceptance and humanisation of technology will take place for both consumers and merchants as new innovations are applied to the world of commerce.
Merchants need to have a mindset that’s focused on being a customer champion, while recognising that customers need to adapt to new technologies in their own time. To do this, businesses must leverage technology to build the right features that aren’t intrusive, but geared towards helping people, and respect the customer’s choice to turn technology on or off.
Technology innovation will continue to re-shape commerce in the years ahead, with the potential to deliver new growth opportunities for merchants, and offering customers more choice, convenience, value and instant gratification. In a broader sense, these innovations can also help promote employment by breaking down traditional barriers to buying and selling. For merchants, the opportunities will arise, they just have to know how to take advantage of them in the right way.