Taxi bosses hail Joburg digital whizz's 'brilliant' app

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Taxi bosses hail Joburg digital whizz's 'brilliant' app

Skhona Khumalo's app tells you all you need to know about catching a minibus taxi ride - and gives passengers a voice

Journalist

It’s time to digitalise the taxi industry, says Skhona Khumalo, who launched the Khwela app at the Bree Street taxi rank in Johannesburg’s CBD on Monday.
The app aims to give passengers a voice about their problems with taxis or drivers, as well as information about the closest rank to them, the destinations from each rank and costs of each trip.
The app has a forum where taxi users can use 100 characters to address emergencies and concerns about drivers, and even ask for a taxi to be dispatched to a certain place if many people are struggling to hail one.
The idea is to also expand the app nationally.Khumalo, 28, a digital innovator from Johannesburg, says his market is 18- to 28-year-olds who have fluctuating demands and might need new route information when visiting a new space.
“Their destinations chop and change.”Hence the need for a tool that can provide route information that can quickly adapt to their needs.
The app is developed with the endorsement of the National Taxi Alliance, a body of taxi associations in all nine provinces, which Khumalo says he will meet once a week to share concerns raised on the Kwhela forum.  
“We want to know how commuters are feeling. That presence for commuters doesn’t exist. We want to give them a voice.“We are trying to increase safety and response from the people responsible for taxis. Our endorsement from the National Taxi Alliance is important as they are operators of the taxi association.”National Taxi Alliance general secretary Alpheus Mlalazi said the app was not only a good idea, but a “brilliant” one.
“It maps all the routes and taxi ranks. We [taxi industry] believe in the world of technology. We embrace it because we do care about customer care and road safety.”
The start-up is supported by Gauteng government-sponsored Innovation Hub, and he works in their Pretoria office space for free.Taxi commuter and Tembisa resident Zanele Zama was sceptical about the new app, saying men on street corners, who partner with the taxi industry, tell commuters going to new places which taxi to use. They then help commuters hail the correct taxi.
“You find these guys at corners who stop a taxi for you and the taxi driver might give them R1.”
But she was more positive about the forum. “We can voice our frustrations because we don’t always have time to go taxi bosses’ offices.  If they listen to us that would be useful.”
Khumalo  believes that millions of commuters, who spend significant time waiting at taxi ranks, are an untapped market for advertisers and for providers of Wi-Fi who can offer information such as career information and matric study guides via the app.  He is in talks with a Wi-Fi provider to enable people at the Bree Street rank to download the app for free.He has outsourced the development of the app, and will pay those developers as soon as the paperwork is completed.
Khumalo is not alone in finally giving commuters digital tools. The Gauteng provincial government launched its On the Move app in the middle of March.
It shows commuters which buses, Rea Vaya buses or taxis to use, as well as fare information.
Khumalo says his app is different since it focuses specifically on taxi users to enhance their journey and get a critical mass of voices to raise issues with taxis.

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