Mobile service provider Safaricom has launched a public transport free Wi-Fi initiative together with the Matatu Owners Association in an initiative dubbed â€œVuma Onlineâ€ that will see passengers access free Internet in more than 200 matatus and buses by September this year.
The initiative targets matatus plying different routes within the city of Nairobi and its environs as well as buses on the Nairobi- Mombasa route where Safaricom will install modems on the PSVs to provide free Wi-Fi services to commuters.
Speaking during the launch held at Buruburu shopping centre, Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore hailed the partnership with the PSV sector noting that the move to provide â€œmobile Internetâ€ was a perfect example of products and services adapting to suit consumersâ€™ lifestyles.
â€œMost of our customers use matatus and buses as their preferred mode of transport on a day-to-day basis. This therefore presents us with a fantastic opportunity to drive home the Internet story and make it a way of life among our customers whom we believe we will achieve by availing free Wi-Fi internet in matatus,â€ he said.
A total of 46 Public Service Vehicles plying the Buruburu, Langata, Rongai, Umoja, Githurai, Dandora, Kiambu and Kenyatta University routes have already been fitted with subsidised Wi-Fi routers in the Sh7 million initiative which is part of the Telcoâ€™s ongoing effort to grow its data footprint.
Collymore added; â€œThe president and his deputy have been saying of going digital and this is what we are doing now. With this Wi-Fi, the commuters will be able to access information in internet through their phones for free.â€
The Matatu Owners Association Chairman Simon Kimutai welcomed the move saying this was going to scale the industry to greater heights.
â€œPeople will no longer get bored while held up in jam because they can chat through Facebook, tweet and much better students can be doing their research as they go to training centers,â€ he noted.
â€œThis is a very exciting phase for the PSV sector. We have a lot of innovation put into buses and matatus over the years, but this is a major milestone. With over 300,000 Kenyans using public transport every day, we believe having Wi-Fi in PSVâ€™s will go a long way in making our passengers commute worthwhile.â€
He added, â€œThe whole country is turning digitalâ€¦the matatu industry cannot afford to remain behind.â€
The commuters will be required to have a phone that can access the Internet and Wi-Fi enabled.
With 1,439 bases 3G base stations, Safaricom accounts for more than 50pc of all Internet connections in the country. Data accounted for more than 23pc of the overall revenue for the telecommunications firm last year, from the 4.6 million customers as at March 2011.