Poor in­ter­net ser­vice among bumps in the road for mo­bile taxi apps

Stabroek News Sunday - - NEWS -

Taxi op­er­a­tions iRide and eCab.gy are cur­rently on hia­tus and their prin­ci­pals say they are work­ing to ad­dress chal­lenges, in­clud­ing the poor qual­ity of mo­bile in­ter­net ser­vices, to en­sure their mo­bile apps can ef­fec­tively func­tion in the Guyanese land­scape.

Both apps, which al­lowed users to re­quest nearby taxis, have been un­avail­able since the last quar­ter of 2017.

The two com­pa­nies and an­other, Drop, came on stream dur­ing the first quar­ter of 2017 and were seek­ing to rev­o­lu­tionise trans­porta­tion ser­vices by promis­ing their users speedy ac­cess to safe, re­li­able and in­ex­pen­sive taxis.

How­ever, Drop quickly bowed out of the mar­ket af­ter cit­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in fos­ter­ing a much needed cul­tural shift and an un­prof­itable mar­ket.

In an in­terview with Sun­day Stabroek, Charles Hus­ton, Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer (CEO) of eCab.gy, ex­plained that his com­pany is con­duct­ing a “deeper anal­y­sis to pin­point what needs to be changed on the app” to make it more ef­fec­tive in the lo­cal set­ting. “We have con­cen­tra­tion groups that are cur­rently test­ing the com­pat­i­bil­ity of our app and telling us what needs to be changed,” Hut­son ex­plained.

He added that they are also work­ing with a small pool of driv­ers to also test the ap­pli­ca­tion.

eCab.gy was the first lo­cal taxi app com­pany to go live when it launched in Fe­bru­ary, 2017.

Mean­while, Kar­ishma Khan, a man­ager of iRide’s par­ent com­pany Giz­mos and Gad­gets, ex­plained that her com­pany had to pull the app from the mar­ket af­ter they dis­cov­ered chal­lenges with map­ping pre­cise lo­ca­tions.

“The app is back with the creators be­cause we dis­cov­ered is­sues with map­ping and some of the codes were not work­ing, so we had to send it back to them,” Khan ex­plained, while stress­ing that soft­ware en­gi­neers from the US and In­dia are work­ing to rem­edy the is­sue.

She noted that af­ter that ex­er­cise is com­pleted, the en­gi­neers will visit Guyana and con­duct pre­lim­i­nary test­ing for a sec­ond time and make mod­i­fi­ca­tions if is­sues arise.

In­ter­net chal­lenges

Ad­di­tion­ally, both Hus­ton and Khan lamented that a re­li­able in­ter­net ser­vice, which is nec­es­sary for the ap­pli­ca­tions to work smoothly, is not avail­able in Guyana. As a re­sult, they called on telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion giants GTT and Dig­i­cel to up­grade the qual­ity of the mo­bile in­ter­net ser­vices now avail­able.

“Our driv­ers had com­plained that the in­ter­net was not re­li­able and the price was too high and we had ap­proached GTT and Dig­i­cel for a bet­ter of­fer and GTT was will­ing to col­lab­o­rate but the app de­vel­oped is­sues and we had to send it back,” Khan said.

Mean­while, Hut­son said the “mo­bile in­ter­net ser­vice in Guyana is not fast, [is] ex­pen­sive and you have lim­ited data. We need un­lim­ited faster in­ter­net if we are go­ing to move into a tech­no­log­i­cal age.”

He stated that based on sur­veys con­ducted by his com­pany, in­ter­net con­nec­tiv­ity was a ma­jor player why per­sons were un­able to ef­fec­tively use its app.

He added that he had been hop­ing a bet­ter ser­vice would have been avail­able by now to Guyanese.

Ac­cord­ing to Hut­son, his com­pany is also look­ing to play a part in ed­u­cat­ing el­der per­sons on how to use their ap­pli­ca­tion. “There is this young peo­ple ide­ol­ogy but we need to teach our older folks how to use these ap­pli­ca­tions. Some of them have smart phones and can­not use to its full po­ten­tial,” he ex­plained.

Hut­son said his ap­pli­ca­tion should re­turn to the mar­ket by mid-year, while iRide was un­able to give a time­line for its re­turn.

Hut­son, in his ini­tial in­terview with this pub­li­ca­tion in Fe­bru­ary 2017, had said that he had de­cided to cre­ate the app af­ter years of notic­ing the trou­bles peo­ple of­ten face when try­ing to get a taxi. “Sometimes you call a taxi base and they tell you five min­utes. Five min­utes gone and you are still wait­ing for the taxi. Or at times the dis­patcher say no taxi is avail­able,” he said.

iRide’s team, had ex­plained that they were en­ter­ing the mar­ket since they recog­nised that the trans­porta­tion busi­ness in Guyana needed to be de­vel­oped with more re­li­able, safer and faster op­tions.

Both com­pa­nies had pledged to cre­ate a cul­ture change among cit­i­zens by merg­ing their re­sources. “It is a work in progress but we are will­ing to col­lab­o­rate on chang­ing the cul­ture. It would take time and we are pre­pared to do so,” Hut­son had stressed.

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