App tracks Nairobi traffic

An App created by a Nairobi technology entrepreneur to help people avoid the city's notorious traffic has gained widespread usage in the capital.

Known as Ma3Route, the App collects traffic information from members of the public and disseminates it to commuters through internet, mobile phones and Twitter.

Its inventor Laban Okune said he designed it originally to help visitors unable to source up-to-date maps of Nairobi. However since its introduction last July, Ma3Route has become an accurate source of traffic information thanks to the growing participation of the public, in particular taxi drivers, who provide it with crucial "real-time" updates.

Laban said that users of the App "can either look at traffic in all of Nairobi or zoom in on a specific route" as well as report instances of dangerous driving. Its Twitter address is @Ma3Route, while it can also be contacted by SMS (Safaricom short code 7955), via Android or through its website.

Laban's App was launched just four months after multinational technology and consulting corporation IBM awarded Nairobi a $400,000 grant to help improve the capital’s transport systems and municipal services. Some of IBM's recommendations included the use of mobile phone Apps, closed-circuit television networks and the creation of a central command centre to highlight traffic issues during peak hours.

Nairobi, whose traffic gridlocks are estimated to cost the Kenyan economy Sh50 million a day, was declared fourth-worst commute in the 2011 IBM Commuter Pain Survey. Almost two thirds of those surveyed in Nairobi last year complained that traffic negatively affects their work, family and health.