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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.

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