Vera Illugadóttir
Last updated: 25 October, 2012

Can mobile apps fix Cairo’s traffic problems?

Any visitor to Egypt’s capital will be familiar with one of the problems that plague the city: traffic congestion. Cairo’s traffic is famously chaotic, not to mention expensive — traffic congestion costs the Egyptian people as much as $8 billion annually in lost productivity, according to a recent World Bank estimate.

And while Egypt may currently be going through radical changes in some areas, the traffic situation shows no signs of relenting. The average commuting time of a Cairo resident is estimated to increase from 37 minutes to 150 minutes in the next three years.

What is to be done? The Cairo Transport App Challenge is a competition for developers to come up with ways to improve any of Cairo’s multitude of traffic problems through mobile phone apps. The competition is sponsored by companies such as Google, Microsoft and Vodafone. Other partners include the World Bank, which recently released a damning report on Cairo’s traffic. The challenge started on September 15th and developers have until November 16th to submit their apps. Submissions will then be voted on and the three finalists, announced on December 15th, receive cash prizes.

This is not the first time mobile apps are proposed as a solution to Cairo’s traffic maladies. Emokhalfa is a platform aimed at improving safety on Egypt’s roads through crowdsourcing. On Emokhalfa’s website users can report vehicles that commit traffic violations or drive recklessly by entering license numbers or photographs into a searchable online database, and thus increasing community pressure on reckless drivers. 

In an interview with entrepreneurship website Wamda, Emokhalfa co-founder Wael Khalifa mentions some of the possible uses of his platform: “Parents who are sending their kids to school by bus can check the school bus and see if he has done any violation and can then put pressure on the school to take action with the driver. One can also check for personal driver or track behavior of their sons and daughters when they buy them a new car.”

The website, Emokhalfa, is already up and running and mobile apps for iOS and Android will be released in November.