We all know how making your way to an unfamiliar place is, you do not know which route is best and the only information you are getting across websites is flimsy directions – and even getting that is a hustle. For those using public transport, it gets worse when you don’t have a person to direct you in regard to the matatu to take.
Faced by this challenge and tired of the boredom that comes with commuting across Nairobi, three JKUAT students came up with the idea of an app that tells you exactly which matatus to take, where you will find the matatus and even which route the matatu will use to get to your destination among other functions.
Metro Jav is the name of the app, a windows-based mobile toolkit that provides a solution to the commuting problem by giving you information on how to get to your destination, provides entertainment during the period you will be in the matatu, lets you share your location with friends and even provides an offline map to guide you to the exact destination.
Speaking to JUUCHINI, the Metro Jav team said the need for a solution that met all the needs of a commuter from fare requirements, routes to use and letting friends and family know how to reach them was the needed motivation and influence to build Metro Jav.
“Rather than having an app for routes, another for fares, using Google or Bing to get to know the interesting features along the route or of the destination, we thought it best to have a bespoke app that met all these needs,” said Metro Jav team.
How It Works
Just like a normal toolkit, Metro Jav has various features for various functions that it performs to aid the user and it has been designed to make it easy for anyone to use.
“Using Metro Jav is easy as A B C,” says the team, who continue to explain what exactly that means.
A represents the first step which is, Ask the App. The javer (user) is required to tell Metro Jav where they want to go and after that the app identifies the current location of the user and gives directions from where the user is, or alternatively the user can specify where exactly they are at.
B is for the second step, the Best Routes. Metro Jav then provides the user with direct routes, options on how to connect as well as alternative routes to the specified destination. In addition, the app gives the user information about the traffic situation of each route, the fare needed and suitability of the route.
In the case the route has a train option, that is provided as well alongside offline maps.
C is the last stage where the user can now easily Commute after selecting the route they prefer. The user can then choose to share information on the route they have taken with their friends and family and the app continues to notify you of any events taking place in establishments within the route taken.
In addition to providing commuting directions, sharing location information either on facebook or Twitter through a Reach Me feature incorporated in the app and providing infromation about events happening next to you, Metro Jav also has an entertainment tool, game feature as well as a news & Ma3 Wiki section.
“Via Reach Me, Metro Jav enables you to share your location with friends, suppliers, delivery companies and even colleagues among others who then get accurate routes with easy to recognize landmarks that lead them straight to you.
“There are also great fun items such as the crazy Ma3 stickers (we all know how interesting those are), commuter puns, witty and smirk conductor replies to keep the commuter entertained. There is also a wiki section to let you in on several great things to know or do while in Nairobi.”
The app, currently available for Windows phone devices but with plans underway to launch to the Android platform, Nokia X and BlackBerry as well as for the Web versions is designed to target all commuters where every day or once in a while commuters on a day to day basis.
How it all started
Metro Jav, since its inception about 5 months ago has gone through a series of versions and updates and it is still developing every day to meet the needs of commuters all in one place.
“The first version of the app was Metro Matatu,” says Dennis Mugambi, the information architect and IU – UX designer of Metro Jav. “Our team Lead Dennis Riungu (also the App developer) was heading to an Intel event in Strathmore University. He asked for directions to Strathmore but instead of getting to the University, he reached Strathmore – the High School.
The situation reminded Riungu of other similar situations that he or his friends had experienced before and found the need to have an easier way of commuting, especially with the advances in the public transport sector, and that was how Metro Matatu – the first version – came to be.
“He requested me to download it and as I gave him feedback, we identified several key aspects that we could improve on and make it suitable for everyone,” adds Mugambi.
It was after this that the two teamed up with Dorcas Kabui, an e-commerce entrepreneur, to market and develop the business aspect of the now Metro Jav, giving her the Business Developer and Marketer of the app.
A finalist in last year’s edition of the Safaricom AppWiz Challenge, Metro Jav has been optimized for Nairobi but the team says it is planning to share the same convenience and simplicity to other major towns across the country, with the next town being Mombasa.
As of last month (December, 2014), Metro Jav was in its fourth version and it continues to receive upgrades every now and then to suit the needs of commuters and reach a large number of people.
“Metro Jav is user driven. We have been releasing one update averagely per month as we continue to iterate it to meet the needs of our users.”
The app will also allow commuters to play trivia games en-route their destinations, to curb the boredom that comes with commuting for long periods of time and having to sit next to an annoying person. The game will centre around the matatu industry just like the news section covers everything about the sector.
Another interesting feature coming to the app is the capability to tell the commuter exactly where to alight, without missing your stop. This will help reduce the need to keep reminding the conductor about the alighting point, which in most cases is always followed with an insult and a stop meters away from the right stage.
With mobile technology growing and mobile applications being developed everyday, the team does not miss to comment on the progress its having in Kenya. “Kenya is fast becoming a mobile first economy and if the app works well in the mobile market, then scaling to other technology options will be smoother.
“We’ve also noticed that if a solution is adoped in Kenya, it will be adopted through out East Africa, Africa and the whole world.”
Metro Jav is available for download for Windows phone devices, with the others having to wait.