technology transport

Transport innovations from the global south

The International Transport Forum released a new report last week called Transport Innovations from the Global South. It profiles 12 case studies that show how “innovation is not a one-way street”, and that demolish “the underlying assumption that innovation flows from North to South only.”

I’ve covered several of them on the blog already, some of them as part of the ‘transport innovation of the week‘ series that I ran a couple of years ago.

  • Drones in Africa. ‘Drone corridors’ for delivering emergency supplies of blood or medecines are now established in Rwanda, Malawi, Ghana and several other locations.
  • Electric buses in China. It’s largely unreported, but China has half the world’s electric cars and 99% of its electric buses, after concerted government investment in the technology and infrastructure.
  • Bus rapid transit. One of my favourite public transport innovations, which began in South America and is now found around the world – though there are not nearly enough of them in Britain, in my opinion. I wrote about it in Dar Es Salaam earlier this year too.
  • Electric rickshaws. In another under-reported story in my opinion, China and India have millions of electric tuk-tuks, and as the report puts it, “electrification of three-wheelers is happening on a massive scale in the Global South.”
  • Cable cars for urban transport. I wrote about this over the summer, and the report gives an overview of the idea, while also asking if they could be used for freight.

I haven’t covered all twelve of the innovations. Some of them I might save for future posts, but here were a couple that I hadn’t come across before:

  • Mapping informal transport. Most of us will be familiar with bus network maps in cities, with colourful lines showing their routes. In many developing countries bus routes have been established more informally. Nairobi used GPS to track the movements of its Matatu buses, providing a map of what had naturally emerged and incorporating it into planning. After Nairobi pioneered the technique, it has been replicated in Mexico, Egypt and elsewhere.
  • Apps for motorcycle taxis. Most of the ideas here are found in Britain in some form or another, but motorcycle taxis aren’t common, if they exist at all. The report profiles how a smartphone app called Go-Jek has made it very easy to book a ride in Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

You can download the whole paper here.

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