World Bank-backed app challenge in Egypt attacks Cairo’s notorious traffic
The first ever Cairo Transport App Challenge (Cairo TApp) wrapped up Saturday with the first prize awarded to a mobile application that helps drivers with road assistance and car maintenance. Twenty-three teams were whittled down to ten finalists in the World Bank-sponsored competition to develop the best technological solution to one of the many problems associated with navigating Cairo’s notorious congestion.
Initiated in June 2012, the Cairo TApp has engaged technologists on transport challenges ranging from harassment and other personal safety issues to encouraging shared rides and car-pooling, increasing effective traffic enforcement, and improving driver behavior. Egyptian technology specialists worked alongside stakeholders and experts in transport and urban development to develop 23 new mobile applications, or apps. The competition was organized in a collaboration between the World Bank, the Egyptian Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Egyptian Ministry of Transport, and Egypt’s active technology community. The participants in the first ever Cairo TApp were recognized at an Award Event on Saturday in the Smart Village near Cairo.
The partners for the Cairo TApp Award Event are Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Ministry of Transport, Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA), Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, Vodafone Egypt, Orange, Google, TA Telecom, Microsoft, Alashanek Ya Balady, Green Arm, Bey2ollak, Arabnet, Wamda, dotopen.
“The Cairo Transport App is an opportunity for young Egyptians to invent and innovate in a bid to contribute to addressing the current social and economic challenges, and to stimulate and develop the spirit of entrepreneurship. We are investing seriously in the development of technological human resources and we have programs and projects that enable our youth to compete globally,” said H.E. Minister Atef Helmy, Egypt’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology.
Cairo faces many critical urban transport, traffic management, and environmental issues. These include an overcrowded and unreliable public transport system; aggravated traffic congestion, with serious economic consequences; poor road safety, with at least 1,000 residents dying each year in motor vehicle crashes, more than half of them pedestrians; institutional fragmentation and insufficient financial resources for transport facilities; and high levels of air and noise pollution, aggravated by the large number of aging microbuses, minibuses, and taxis in the city.
Conversely, the use of mobile phones has exploded in Egypt and mobile applications now provide an accessible platform to improve service delivery and help tackle problems such as those facing Egypt’s capital. Egyptian technologists already participated in the first Water Hackathon, organized by the World Bank in 2011 in Cairo and other locations worldwide, which developed apps for improving delivery of water services.
“The Cairo TApp is a great example of bottom-up, local innovation that can complement the more traditional lending operations supported by the World Bank,” said Hartwig Schafer, World Bank Country Director Egypt, Yemen and Djibouti. “We are very impressed by the creativity and dedication of the young technology specialists who took part, and the energy they bring to solving the everyday problems faced by Egyptians.”
“This competition shows how working across sectors – ICT, Transport, and Urban Development, in this instance – can help find innovative solutions to development challenges,” said Jose Luis Irigoyen, World Bank Director for Transport, Water, and Information and Communication Technologies.
The Cairo TApp began with a workshop held at Egypt’s Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (TIEC) in September 2012, which resulted in more than 24 application submissions. Out of these, 10 finalists were selected through online voting (for one popular app) and by mentors and experts.
The winning app, Beliaa, is a “mobile car mechanic” designed to assist car owners. It is the first mobile application for road assistance and car maintenance in Egypt, using GPS location to help drivers locate road assistance centers and sending car maintenance requests with the required service, date, and time to authorized car workshops. The app is also integrated with the General Department for Traffic to provide quick and reliable traffic updates. The Beliaa team won US$3,000 and a nomination to an international mobile application competition at the 2013 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.