Mobility experts and enthusiasts including policy makers, government, academia, innovators and development agencies join hands to make Nairobi a smart city!
Uber, C4DLab and UNHABITAT put together mobility enthusiast in a day long summit that provided insights on an enabling environment to fuel the growth of smart cities with a focus on Nairobi. The Mobility Summit – Nairobi also saw Uber launch SPEEDS, a free data set within Uber Movement. Represented were Shell Foundation, University of Nairobi, Nopia, among other over 120 industry players present. 8 startups admitted into the TUMI Startup Accelerator also pitched their mobility solutions as they graduated from the 6-moths acceleration journey at C4DLab.
Speaking during the summit, Debashish Bhattacharjee,Lead Urban Mobility Unit, UN-HABITAT stated that transport is a crisis but in the context of Africa, we should always plan well so that we don’t deal with the issue as a crisis. He emphasized that the key issue of mobility is about access and ease of transport for people to reach destinations. It’s undisputed that public transport, walking and cycling are the most important aspects of sustainable urban transport.
The Mobility summit comes timely with the need to address Kenya’s mobility menace. A few weeks ago, Kenya hosted the first UNHABITAT Assembly in Nairobi and it was very clear from the assembly that better city planning, introduction of efficient, reliable safe public transport and improving cycling and walking are the key things everyone should be working on in the quest for sustainable urban transport.
The main lesson from the UNHABITAT Assembly coming into the Mobility Summit was that mobility industry players should come together and use data to come up with solutions. Speaking during the Mobility Summit, Kenyan ICT champion Prof. Bitange Ndemo stated that all industry players should maximize on free data provided by the Kenya Open Data Initiative to come up with real solutions. He emphasized that data has great power in delivering smart cities. Stakeholders should therefore build capacity first then convince the government to release data for public access. In this case, data can be put into visual data inform of graphics and Virtual Reality for quick comprehension.
Well, we all know Uber and how it has integrated technology to create a platform that connects drivers and riders. They brought their A game to the Mobility Summit as they launched SPEEDS, a free data set within Uber Movement that will help people understand where congestion is around the city and use the free data to come up with solutions. This data will be very useful for planners.
Speaking during the event, Cezanne Maherali, Head of Policy at Uber East Africa stated that Uber has created over 6000 jobs for Kenyan drivers. This clearly states that there is great economic potential for digitizing the mobility industry. Nairobi is lucky to be part of the six cities in the world to access real time data from the SPEEDS tool. This data is downloadable and accessible.
One key thing is that this data can be used to explain user experiences and in return use it to reduce stress levels. It can also be used to determine where people are travelling to and ease the planning process.
In one of the panel discussions, it was noted that there is a need to have dedicated lanes for public transport. In the Kenyan scenario, this is where BRT comes in. This definitely means public transport is key for sustainable urban mobility. Therefore, the public should be involved by giving them access to project information during the planning process for proper decision making.
Constant cap an urban planner reiterated that there is a need to put in place infrastructure that meets the needs of the users. ‘Planning for the people, with the people.’ This can be achieved by using creative methods to find solutions to hidden problems by literally sitting down with the road users and finding out what they want.
The call to all mobility industry players in this case is simple, the willingness from the public is there so the different stakeholders should join hands, integrate creativity and technical skills and engage the road users to plan for a better city.