Should South African public transport be 'uberfied'?
Many of us have experienced the simplicity and convenience of hailing an Uber. It certainly seems like the 180-degree opposite of South Africa’s fragmented, informal (and sometimes unreliable) public transport networks.
But what if we could use the principles and the technology that made Uber great, and apply them to our urban public transport systems? Could we bring order to the chaos, and improve the lives of millions of commuters?
The answer to both questions is a resounding ‘yes’. In fact, the sensors, the geolocation technology, and the strong smartphone penetration are already in place.
In pilot programmes within South Africa’s largest metropolis, Johannesburg, users will soon be able to fire up an app, and get real-time views of the nearest buses meandering to their next stops (just like tracking your approaching Uber driver). They’ll be able to enter their departure and destination points, and immediately get a view of waiting times, travelling times, and costs.
In time, these programmes will expand to beyond just the major bus operators, into other forms of transport as well – potentially including trains, taxis, and other ride-sharing services.
Power to the people
With hundreds of bus, taxi and train routes weaving around the city, the fabric of our public transport system is highly elaborate, and often confusing for users. But by surfacing relevant, point-in-time, information, commuters are able to more easily plan their way to work or to home.
Daily schedules and defined routes certainly exist, but the reality is that in South Africa, the schedules are often affected by delays, congestion, power outages, and other issues. By using mobile apps, we can minimise those problems by showing users a real-time view of the nearest bus, where it’s stopping, and where it’s ultimately heading.
This is the exciting promise of digitisation. Armed with well-packaged information, consumers have greater power and control – enabling them to make smarter choices about which public transport method to use. It makes the experience of public transport a highly personal one.
And by analysing a user’s most common routes, proactive alerts can be streamed to targeted groups of commuters, to let them know of any issues that may affect their travel times on that day, further enhancing the sense of personalisation.
For public transport operators and city officials, this data can also be used to optimally plan new transport infrastructure, modify the schedules, and increase the throughput of daily commuters.
Public transport in South Africa is at a cross-road, affected by a number of colliding local and global forces.
Locally, cities and municipalities are under increasing pressure to formalise their taxi networks – with the goals of creating better public-private partnerships, increasing tax and license fee collection from operators, and improving commuter safety.
A great example is the Western Cape town of George. It’s Integrated Public Transport Network involved informal taxi operators being incentivised to create a new operating entity, fully supported by the local municipality and aligned with government’s vision for public transport nationally.
Globally, the advent of the so-called “collaborative economy” has kicked into gear a wide variety of new ways to get around – from ride-hailing apps, to car-pooling services, to bicycle rentals, and more. Before too long, the effects of these new social shifts will start filtering into South African transport.
Municipalities that make investments in the right technologies will be well placed to address these local and global opportunities. The road might start with a simple app, but who knows where it will lead...
Craig Heckwrath is a Product Development Manager at Inervate is a T-Sytems company in South Africa.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”