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Urban Hackday Creates Tech-Solutions to Social Challenges in Cities

On September 25 and 26, UN-Habitat, Ericsson, and Nairobi’s Strathmore University arranged an “urban hackday” at Strathmore University in Nairobi. Youth from around Kenya – together with mentors from local government and technology companies – gathered at Strathmore University’s @iBizAfrica business incubator to develop technological solutions that can used to improve city life. Participants explored solutions to challenges faced by cities around the world in four main areas: local economy, city planning, urban basic services and local governance.


After 30 hours of intense hacking, the winning team was MatQ with their innovative web and mobile application designed to improve the governance and management of matatu (local bus) stops in Kenya. The application aims to make interaction between matatu, local government and travelers easier. The current management system includes pens, paper and white boards; the route manager writes on paper and the white board to direct matatus where to line up as they come into the terminal. This system often results in altercations, as some matatus can be favored over others.


The automation of MatQ’s solution rules out any foul play, as the route manager will digitally key in the matatus as they arrive and thus cannot alter the sequence. Additionally, the data can be reviewed and used for planning purposes by the local government, for example, to advise on expansion plans and improve revenue collection. It also includes a hardware device that the route manager can use to print the list and any other route-related information.


The next step is now to provide the team with the necessary support and the local government agencies with enough basic ICT capacity to be able to turn the concept into reality.


The hackday is part of the three year partnership between UN-Habitat and Ericsson on how ICT can support sustainable urbanization. The hackday was also part of a larger project dubbed the Urban Innovation Marketplace, managed by UN-Habitat, that seeks to improve services by connecting Kenyan youth with local governments through technological innovation.


The winning team has been awarded a study trip to Rwanda during the Transform Africa Summit, which will include meeting Ericsson experts.


Story by Ericsson.