Capital FM (Nairobi)

25 April 2014

Kenya: Meet the Brains Behind Ma3route

Nairobi — Kenya's improvements in mobile phone technology and greater access to the Internet continue to spur new innovations in the tech sector.

A drive or a walk through the bustling capital City Nairobi reveals a nation in love with mobile phones; almost every individual has a mobile phone and more so, smartphones.

Thirty-year-old Laban Okune Anunda is one man who decided to leverage on this when he came up with the mobile SMS/web based platform dubbed, 'ma3route'.

The platform aggregates crowd-sourced transport data and provides users with information on traffic, public service vehicles (PSVs) directions and driving reports.

Initially the application launched in July 2012, was receiving alerts from about 30 to 50 people a day but has now grown to over 1000 people, with more than 10,000 downloads at the moment.

"What I realised is that there was a big gap in the transport sector and I was determined to address it. You drive on a particular route blindly, there is an accident, and you end up wasting two hours on the road instead of say 15 minutes. If you had proper information you could have used an alternative route," he says. "In the long term, this leads to loss of millions of shillings for the economy."

Ma3route has been built on Android, IOS and on Windows mobile apps. However those without smartphones can get the information by subscribing to the SMS alerts. They have also partnered with Nokia to put the app on the Nokia X devices.

"The reason I chose to go the citizen way is because citizens are everywhere and they report every time. That is why ma3route is active even in the middle of the night. There is always someone moving around and when they see an incident, they report," he says with a smile.

Anunda was born and brought up in Butere, in Kakamega County. He came to Nairobi to join Kenyatta University to pursue a degree in Computer Engineering. After he graduated, he started engaging in building management systems for private, government and non-profit organisations before starting the ma3route platform. He is now working with six other people.

"My dream had always been to do something that will help the community. In terms of satisfaction, I feel so good when I see people being assisted through the system. For example when we had the recent matatu strike in Nairobi you could see that people were desperate for information. I mean, I value this highly. It's more than money," he says.

So how do you make money? I ask him. "Revenue comes through advertisements on the app. If we know you use Ngong road, the business people along that road advertise within us and then we push that notification. We can maybe tell you pass by Brew Bistro because there is 'happy hour' where you get discounts on drinks and maybe food," he explains.

Ma3route also makes money through the SMS alerts where they share the subscription fee of Sh3 per SMS with the service provider.

Looking into the future, the platform looks at partnering with oil marketers where they can guide motorists towards the nearest petrol stations.

Ma3route was among six winners in this year's Kenya Vision 2030 ICT Innovation awards at Connected Kenya 2014 summit.

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