Kenya’s public transport industry has been dominated by minibuses and buses popularly referred to as matatu since independence. Their growth has been a systematic one and has seen the industry stand the test of time by not only surviving but thriving in the economic environment provided. Embracing technology has played a huge part in this good run.
Since time memorial passengers have been paying cash fares directly to drivers or conductors of matatus. This has left the actual matatu and bus owners with no way of knowing how much profit their vehicles are making hence owners simply demanding a flat daily fee from their staff, with the remaining profits split between the driver and conductor. With the launch of a cashless, prepaid card system for public transport, called BebaPay. Conductors are equipped with small, NFC (near-field communication) enabled smartphones where passengers simply tap their BebaPay card to the phone. Money is then digitally transferred from the card to the phone, and passengers get a message on their phone confirming the transaction. This development will lead to greater transparency, accountability, organization and ultimately more profits to matatu owners.
With the introduction of Nairobi-based Data Integrated system matatus are fitted with GPS tracking, mobile ticketing machines. The data Integrated system fits buses with real-time tracking, mobile point of sale machines, and cameras that count the number of people that board and match them to the number of tickets sold. Therefore matatu- owners, having data on passenger numbers means they can set target fees that better reflect ticket revenue and number of passengers boarding the matatu.
Security cameras help bus owners reduce petty theft that may occur in the matatus as they can see number of people who have boarded the matatu.The cameras also play a vital role in the event of an accident since the stored data can be retrieved and revised to ascertain events leading up to the accident at the same time provide avenue for owners to monitor fuel utilisation and how personnel treat the passengers’: This has helped do away with the lack of courtesy that many associate with matatu operators.
Matatus in the Kenya also pride themselves with matatu culture that sees most buses have their bodies revamped to pieces of art. This has seen matatus become a new avenue for advertisements and creating awareness on different issues affecting the society. A great example is matatus painted with signs that provide more information on COVID-19 and how to stay safe.