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Big data may help streamline Abidjan bus routes

allaboardIBM

Cellphone call data has helped technology and computer giant IBM propose four new bus routes in the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan that could help ease traffic by ‘10%’.

As part of its ‘AllAboard’ research project, IBM says it used Orange network cellphone call data -- collected from 2.5 billion phone records -- to determine the mobility of Abidjan citizens and their recurrent travel patterns within the city.

The call data was ‘cleaned’ to ensure that IBM could only determing citizens’ proximity to mobile towers in the city. Abidjan has a population of close to four million people.

The research concentrated on bus routes in Abidjan where the network is made up of 539 large buses, 5,000 mini-buses and 11,000 shared taxis.

IBM research manager for Smarter Urban Dynamics, Francesco Calabrese, told ITWeb Africa that by using cellphone call records, his company was able to identify that large numbers of people were using routes where buses were not present.

“We recommended the addition of four new routes to the transport system based on the travelling routes that were not covered,” he said.

“These routes are located in different parts of the city and the optimisation model predicts that adding these routes would reduce overall travel times in the city by 10%,” he added,

According to IBM, peoples’ use of mobile phones offers cities the ability to monitor their interactions and use data-driven insights to better plan and manage services, such as the transport system.

But this one instance of using big data to determine more bus routes for an African city has potentially broader consequences for the continent as well, says an expert.

Mervin Miemoukanda, Frost & Sullivan research analyst, has told ITWeb Africa that the next wave in the ICT industry is to start analysing all the data collected from consumers and businesses.

“Public entities and businesses are going to try to understand end-user behaviours, weather patterns... thanks to giant analytics software or servers,” he explained.

He added, “Businesses and vendors have already started to integrate big data in their applications, so African businesses will definitely benefit from big data projects.”

Miemoukanda added, “This kind of project can improve service delivery, help government or businesses better serve their population or clients.”

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