If there is an App that everyone with a smartphone should have, it is the Ma3Route. The App that is meant to provide users with traffic updates, give directions to places and enable you to report rogue drivers is downloadable from Google Play Store and is free to use. In the meantime @Ma3Route has informed us that they are working to finalize the App for Windows and iOS ecosystems which will be up and running very soon.
First thing you need to do after downloading the app on your Android device is to enter into preferences. To do this, you need to touch on the menu icon at the top left corner of the App’s homepage and choose preferences. Under preference you need to choose your Town, include your identity e.g. @kachwanya for twitter or your full email address, check whether you want to be mentioned on ma3route social media pages (well I was unable to uncheck) and choose whether you want your posts on ma3route to be posted on your twitter timeline. Other preferences include choosing traffic issue to update on, how to report the traffic issue, whether you want to share your location and whether you want to receive alerts from specific roads. Finally you can allow the ma3route to read out your alerts loud. After you have selected your preferences be sure to save them by pressing on the save icon located at the top right corner at the Preferences page.
After setting your preferences, there are other menu items you need to familiarize yourself with; Link to Services and Deals that should offer you a list of suggested cabs, breakdown services, tour services, and similar services that have partnered with Ma3Route (in my case it was blank because I’ve set my town as Nakuru), Link to News and Stories that have cool News updates from all over the worlds that relates to traffic (I like the commentary on physics of traffic jams), and Link to Explore Towns that provides you with a list of towns you can get or add directions on. The other items I have skipped are described below in details.
Ma3Route App is primarily meant to give the user live update on what is happening on major roads in Nairobi and elsewhere. The updates rely mainly on live feed sent by end users either via the App or Twitter. Ma3Route also sources some of the traffic updates and alerts users accordingly. Work is in progress to ensure more live updates are sourced by the Ma3Route personnel instead of having to rely on end users for most updates. Traffic updates can be viewed as either text feed or via Google maps integrated in the App. Viewing the updates on Google maps however depends on whether the update came from a user that has shared his/her location.
This is the best part of Ma3Route App as it solves a major problem I have had in the past and I believe everyone has experienced this at one time or another. If you want to board a matatu to some estate and you don’t know where to pick your matatu, ma3route comes in handy. If I wanted to travel from town to Kasarani but I don’t know where to pick the mat, I will only need to open the App, go to Directions, type in “Town” as the point of origin and type in “Kasarani” as the destination. The App will perform the search and return this, “Go to Temple road between Mfangano street and Uyoma street board matatu number 17B and ask to be dropped at Kasarani. It will cost you Kshs. 50. Alternative. Taxi. It will cost you Kshs. 1000”.
This feature is very useful and it is one reason that everyone should download the App; not only for using it regularly but also for providing direction information on many other routes that are still missing. I tried to find directions to Wangige (Lower Kabete route 118) but the App does not have info on that route yet.
The direction feature also enables you to find driving directions and view the directions on Google maps and also explore places on Google maps, Foursquare and Keja Finder.
This is another cool feature that enables you to report a vehicle that is badly driven, that has caused an accident, or that has broken any traffic rules. Users are allowed to type in the full registration number of the vehicle and report the particular issue the vehicle was involved in to the public. Browsing through this pane, I have seen users report vehicles that were involved in hit and run, vehicles lacking side mirrors, and those grossly violating traffic rules. My suggestion to ma3route is that for effective use of this feature, they need to partner with traffic police department on how some of the cases reported can be followed up. To ensure that the police follows up, they also need to partner with media agencies, law society, and civil rights organizations that will equally note the reports and launch investigations on those reports that are considered serious.
The app is a great tool that integrates live traffic feed, provides directions and enables one to report bad driven vehicles. It has a great and friendly user interface and its integration with twitter is a plus. Ma3route have been able to partner with MIT, Groupshot, Columbia University and the University of Nairobi as part of the Digital Matatus project. They also have partnered with NTV Kenya to broadcast their traffic feed during the @AMLive programme. They were also featured on K24 Business Central.
However as already mentioned, the app needs to grow and and include information from major towns across the country, include information on all routes in Nairobi, and partner with police and other relevant transport stakeholders and ensure the App is more reliable, accurate and up to date. The apps also stops unexpectedly most of the time. I have had no issues with Apps for over 4 months until I downloaded this App…ma3route, are you listening?