Updated on June 17, 2020


Created on August 19, 2017

Digital Matatus

Upcoming Update

Digital Matatus is a joint project between MIT, Columbia University, Groupshot and the University of Nairobi working towards mapping Nairobi's informal transit system through crowdsourcing.

Developed By Unknown
Content Partners


Product Description

Digital Matatus was created to provide transit information in the city of Nairobi, Kenya. The project, an alliance between MIT, Columbia University, Groupshot and the University of Nairobi, used mobile data collection to map the routes of Matatus (private buses), to create a GTFS system and a map of the informal transit system.


Distributors / Implementing Organizations

University of Nairobi, MIT, Columbia University

Manufacturing/Building Method

The mobile data collection was performed with a customized version of MyTracks. Formatting of the data into the GTFS (General Transit Feed Specification) was initially done by hand. Currently, a web based application, Digital Matatus GTFS Editing Tool, simplifies the formatting process. The GTFs editing tool is complete and was used to do the first update of Digital Matatus. The company has yet to launch it formally but intends to make it open source.Interview with representative Digital Matatus utilizes data collected from partners to continuously update the data set to keep it as current as possible.

Intellectural Property Type

Open Source

User Provision Model

End users can use several apps that have implemented Digital Matatus' data: - Google MapsMa3RouteTransit App

Design Specifications

Through a pre-selected mobile application, students from University of Nairobi rode several Matatus routes with mobile phones in their hands. The stops were identified as well. With the collected data, and after workshops with local transit experts, a more flexible GTFS standard was created. This standard is suitable for transit systems with high level of complexity and informality, such as Nairobi's. Digital Matatus also designed a paper map at the Civic Data Design LabInterview with representative . Below are the steps towards achieving this solution: 1) Inspiration came from transit maps of systems in New York or London 2) Crowdsourced data was transferred into a software like Illustrator or Rhinoceros (Digital Matatus used Rhinoceros) 3) A grid was laid down and lines drawn at 45 and 90 degree angles on top of the grid 4) Colored lines were created for each group of routes 5) Stops for each line in the transit system was inserted

Technical Support

Digital Matatus provides access to the GTFS datasets. General guidelines from the World Bank for integrating GTFS data into other applications is also provided.

Replacement Components




Manufacturer Specified Performance Parameters

Digital Matatus intents to improve public transit in cities through technology, namely by using information gathered from the commuters.  

Vetted Performance Status

From survey data: - 80% of respondents didn't have access to these data before the project - 86% of respondents believed the map made it easier to use public transit in Nairobi - 83% of respondents reported that they would try alternate Matatu routes with the map - 50% of respondents reported that they believed that Nairobi's Matatu system was better than they previously thought after seeing the map



Complementary Technical Systems

Google Maps, Open Street Maps

Academic Research and References

Klopp, J., Williams, S., 2016, Leveraging Cellphones for Wayfinding and Journey Planning in Semi-formal Bus Systems: Lessons from Digital Matatus in Nairobi. In: Planning Support Systems and Smart Cities. SPRINGER INTERNATIONAL PU

Williams, A., Waiganjo, P., Orwa, D., Klopp, J., 2015,  The digital matatu project: Using cell phones to create an open source data for Nairobi’s semi-formal bus system, Journal of Transport Geography, Volume 49, Pages 39-51, ISSN 0966-6923

Klopp, J., Mutua, J., Orwa, D., Waiganjo. P,, White. A,, Williams, S., 2014, Towards a Standard for Paratransit Data: Lessons from Developing GTFS Data for Nairobi’s Matatu System. Transportation Research Board 93rd Annual Meeting

Klopp, J., Mutua, J., Orwa, D., Waiganjo. P,, White. A,, Williams, S., 2017, Informal 2.0: Seeing and Improving Urban Informal Practices through Digital Technologies The Digital Matatus case in Nairobi, The Journal of Field Actions, p. 39-43

Compliance with regulations


Leave a Reply

Explore similar solutions


October 1, 2020

Social Tenure Domain Model

Read Solution
All Solutions

Contribute to E4C's Library of Breakthrough Sustainable Development Technology Solutions

Suggest A Solution

Get more information about Solutions Library and its features.

Learn More

Have thoughts on how we can improve?

Give Us Feedback

Join a global community of changemakers.

Become A Member