By Catherine Tulina Kafumbe, Country Director — SafeBoda
The central pillar of the digital economy is the concept of hyper-connectivity, a growing interconnectedness of people, organizations, and machines made possible by the Internet and mobile technology. Several businesses, like SafeBoda, reflect this digital economy.
SafeBoda is revolutionizing safe transportation, payments, and on-demand services at a click of a button using a consumer services app, which not only offers ride-hailing services but allows users to make and receive payments via mobile money. The riders receive extensive training to make them the safest on the streets.
The data gathered during the onboarding process combined with the use of the App enables traceability which enhances security. The biggest advantage of being App based is that drivers receive online trip requests from a customer anywhere within their radius while traditional stage-based drivers solely rely on passengers finding them at the designated stage. This brings convenience to both drivers and their customers.
Beyond private sector players, the government is also increasingly taking cognizance of the need to embrace technology and innovation in organizing public transportation, specifically boda- bodas.
For instance, KCCA is creating a mobile phone application for registration of all boda boda riders operating within the Central Business District. According to the Deputy Director of KCCA, the mobile app will enable stage leaders/chairpersons to register their riders and each leader will be accountable for any challenges faced by the authority with their riders.
It is believed that this will increase responsible riding by driving compliance since all incidents involving boda bodas within Kampala shall be traceable.
Further to KCCA’s Streamlining Action Plan, it will be mandatory for each rider to be registered under the 445 gazetted stages around Kampala. The rider and their motorcycle must have PSV, driving license, third party, protective gear like helmet, reflector jacket, among others.
Upon compliance with the requirements, KCCA will register the rider and the rider will receive a QR code using which all their activity on the road may be traced. Trite to note though that currently, there are over 2500 stages in Kampala and implementation of KCCA’s plan will lead to loss of stages to thousands of riders.
While the transition of affected riders can be managed by boarding them onto already existing hailing platforms like SafeBoda there are regulatory challenges which need to be addressed. Currently, it’s still mandatory for all boda boda riders to be registered to a designated physical stage despite the advancement of technology and innovation as demonstrated by ride hailing companies and their app based riders.
It is also yet to be seen whether the implementation of KCCA’s streamlining action plan shall involve improved monitoring to ensure compliance with road safety regulations. Un-checked non-compliance, not only increases security, safety and sanity challenges, but also creates unfair competition between App based riders and traditional riders.
This results from the fact that App based trips are monitored by the App and therefore riders must strictly comply with both the general road safety regulations and the terms and conditions of using the App. e.g., they must carry 1 (one) passenger per trip.
Traditional riders on the other hand have the liberty to negotiate with customers and carry as many passengers as they can for an extra charge for a trip of the same distance taken by an App based rider. This continues to happen despite the fact that carrying more than 1 (one) passenger is against the road safety regulations.
Needless to say that such reckless driving and a disregard for road safety regulations contributes to the number of accidents, causing injuries and even fatalities. The lack of traceability further makes it difficult for the police to identify and hold the reckless rider accountable.
Such anonymity challenges also have an impact on the management of investigations into crimes involving unregistered boda boda riders.
Digitization presents numerous opportunities and solutions to the existing challenges in the Boda Boda industry in Uganda. It has got the ability to revolutionize the way the sector operates and creating a positive impact on various fronts. Some of these opportunities include.
- Improved Safety, Security and sanity. Digitization allows for the implementation of advanced safety features and real-time tracking systems. SafeBoda, for instance, uses a mobile app that enables passengers to request rides and track their journey, ensuring transparency and accountability. GPS technology enables riders to navigate the city efficiently and allows emergency services to respond promptly in case of any untoward incidents, thereby enhancing overall safety and security. Additionally, riders don’t need to wait around in congested areas to pick up a customer since the request for a ride is received through the App. This greatly contributes to decongestion of the city and hence improves sanity.
- Enhanced Customer Experience. Digital platforms offer a seamless and convenient short time booking experience for passengers with no need for price negotiation. Through trip requests, a customer can order a ride from the comfort of their home, get picked up from a location of their choice and be dropped off to their final destination. Riders can be rated and reviewed, encouraging service providers to maintain high standards of professionalism. This leads to a competitive marketplace that motivates riders to provide excellent customer service.
- Financial Inclusion. Digital payment systems integrated into Boda Boda services help promote financial inclusion by enabling riders and passengers to transact cashless. This reduces the risk associated with handling cash, fosters a safer environment, and provides a platform for riders to access formal financial services.
- Data-Driven Decision Making. Digitization generates vast amounts of data on ride patterns, customer preferences, and market trends. This data can be analyzed to make informed decisions, plan for the city for future standardized transportation systems, identify areas for improvement, and design targeted interventions to address challenges in the industry effectively.
- Increased Efficiency and Productivity. With digitization, riders can optimize their routes, reducing idle time and maximizing productivity. Mobile apps can analyze demand patterns, helping riders to strategically position themselves for higher ride requests. This results in reduced waiting times for passengers and increased earning potential for riders.
- Environmental Benefits. By optimizing routes and reducing fuel consumption, digitization contributes to environmental conservation and a greener mode of transportation. Electric and environmentally-friendly vehicles can also be integrated into the Boda Boda fleet through the use of digital platforms. Leveraging the existing databases for instance the SafeBoda database of riders and customers awareness about electric bikes can be raised to drive demand for them. Ultimately, the transformation will lead to increased earnings for the drivers as they will not need to spend on fuel.
- Regulatory Compliance. Digitization facilitates compliance with regulatory requirements, such as licensing, registration, and adherence to safety standards. This streamlines the regulatory process and supports authorities to monitor and enforce regulations effectively.
- Employment Opportunities. As the Boda Boda industry undergoes digitization, it creates new job opportunities in technology-related roles, such as app developers, data analysts, and customer support representatives.
Conclusively, digitization presents a myriad of opportunities to revolutionize the Boda Boda industry in Uganda.
By embracing technology and innovation, the sector can overcome the existing challenges and usher in a new era of safety, efficiency, and sustainable growth. This paradigm shift requires all key stakeholders to build trust amongst themselves and lay a firm foundation for collaboration which can ease digital transformation of the sector.
Embracing these advancements will undoubtedly lead to a more inclusive and thriving Boda Boda industry which benefits all stakeholders involved.