Sep 072015

It’s not unfair to call many of the apps disrupting today’s industries as being the result of ‘first world problems’.

Uber was born out of founders Garrett Camp and Travis Kalanick difficulty in hailing Parisian cabs while AirBnB came from Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky’s struggles with San Francisco rents.

Now as smartphones and mobile internet starts to become available to those in less wealthy parts of the world, we’re seeing how these concepts can be applied to problems more widespread.

A good example of this is the project to map Nairobi’s matatu minibus network where researchers used smartphones to create a picture of the city’s seemingly chaotic system of privately owned vehicles.

With some modifications, the data can be fed into Google’s transit map format that allows the routes to found on Google Maps.

The next logical step for this is for entrepreneurs, possibly even Uber, to entice matatu operators to use Uber like apps to track the location of minibuses and give passengers better payment options. It’s quite possible we’re seeing the start of an evolution into a new type of transit network using independent, privately owned vehicles bound together by an app based platform offering city wide public transport.

Similarly, in Cuba the room sharing service AirBnB is seeing the country’s informal private accommodation market as being an opportunity not only to expand its market but to help the country deal with the massive influx of US tourists now relations with the two countries have been normalised.

While the disruption to established markets from these new services has been huge, it may be the biggest effects are in developing countries where the economy and governments have reached the stage of development where powerful regulators work with incumbents to stymie competition.

In which case, today’s developing nations will see very different structures in their industries to those in the developed west that were built around 19th and 20th century technologies.

Image “A matatu” by Jociku – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons – 

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