Even as digital technologies are increasing the amount and kinds of data available, at least 105 million people living in African cities do not have reliable information on their transit systems. Some 70% or more of transport services are paratransit or “informal” with little integration or regulation. This information gap makes it harder for users to understand existing systems and for planners and individuals to improve services.

Improving and expanding high quality and affordable public transport across the globe is key to combatting inequality, increasing opportunity and access, addressing the public health crises of traffic crashes and air pollution, and reducing harmful carbon emissions. Sharing and leveraging open, standardized public transport data for all modes including walking, cycling and popular or “informal” transport is a critical tool for improved planning, operations, investment decisions and overall transparency and accountability. Digital Transport for Africa (DT4A) represents a large, diverse network of city governments, residents, universities, civic technology companies and collectives as well as international development partners committed to building digital commons and applying the Principles for Digital Development to the goals of sustainable urban mobility and access. The DT4A Steering Committee includes WRI and Agence Française de Développement (AFD).

DT4A aims to create a movement for open transit data across the African region by strengthening capacities to work with and leverage standardized data; providing expertise and tools to adapt current transport, land use, and planning data (e.g., GTFS format) to the African context (see our GitLab page for more); gathering evidence and presenting cases of how data can help improve planning and implementation of sustainable mobility, particularly in the paratransit/informal transport sector; and cultivating innovations to encourage and promote uptake and use of open transit data.

To promote this movement, DT4A has launched the Innovation Challenge, a juried competition that will award US$30,000 each to four projects to support new solutions for Africa's digital mobility landscape. Eligible activities include:

  • Promoting paratransit or popular transport in African cities through open data and mapping
  • Enabling the improvement of transit services, especially informal public transport
  • Curtailing growing transport emissions, improving safety and increasing access to opportunities
  • Providing hands-on experience with open data principles to the large and diverse network of city authorities, residents, universities, private technology companies, and international development groups engaged in urban mobility
  • Sharing knowledge to strengthen cross-sectoral collaboration at the local and regional level.

Learn more and apply now at digitaltransport4africa.org.

Cover image credit: Zahara Milele/WRI