digitalMatatus illustrates how anyone can leverage the ubiquitous nature of mobile technology in developing countries to collect data for an essential infrastructure, give it out freely, and in the process encourage the government to develop channels to provide better access to information.  Conceived out of collaboration between American and Kenyan Universities, partnering with Nairobi’s growing technology sector, this project captured data on Nairobi’s transit system, developed mobile routing applications, and designed a new transit map for Nairobi that changed the how both the residents and government navigate the system. 

The power of data was not fully realized until the first paper map of the Matatu System was launched in January, 2014. The map design allowed Nairobi’s residents and the government to visualize, for the first time, the comprehensive system that served their city. Government officials instantly saw the potential of the map at the press launch, and made it the “The Official Nairobi Matatu Map”. It was clear that the visualization made the data real to them as these same officials had been encouraged to participate in the project but had remained largely dis-interested or un-responsive. They could now literally “see” the benefits of the map and data for transit planning, but more importantly, they saw how providing it as a resource could create good from the public. The downloadable maps have gone viral on twitter and were published in several of Nairobi’s major newspapers. Residents surveyed since the release of the map say they are navigating Nairobi’s Mataus system more efficiently. This openly available data and map have the potential to be used by anyone who is interested in changing the future of Nairobi’s Matatu System.

Article from Next City about the Nairobi Project - These Digital Maps Could Revolutionize Nairobi's Minibus Taxi Service


Director: Sarah Williams
Research Assistants: Wenfei Xu and Emily Eros


University of Nairobi
Columbia University (CSUD)

Support from: 

The Rockefeller Foundation