Kenya Ride-Hailing App Taps Blockchain to Provide Trusted Drivers
The age of ride-hailing apps has seen companies such as Uber and Lyft become global giants, upending the pre-existing business models. In Nairobi, one startup has identified a difficulty unique to Kenya, and many other developing nations—the problem in finding a driver commuter can trust and is utilizing blockchain technology to connect the gap.
UTU Technologies was launched two years ago to lay the foundations for a more human-friendly internet. And while it has gone on to build several products and services, it’s most recognized as the operator of Maramoja. This is a ride-hailing app, similar to that of Uber; however, unlike its San Francisco-based peer, Maramoja depends on trust, not cost, to match its drivers with clients.
UTU Technologies’ Rahul Srivatsa explained in a statement, “Uber and Lyft give you drivers based on cost reasons as opposed to whom the customer would be comfortable riding with. Maramoja uses social graphs and a dynamic feedback mechanism through which we can recommend drivers you are most likely to trust. Plus the ability for users to provide video feedback makes it a more personal experience.”
Getting a ride is easy—you log on to the Maramoja app, or access it through its website. In a few minutes, a driver will pick you up. Nevertheless, this will not be just any casual driver. The Maramoja app will use suggestions from your friends, friends of friends, and other people in your network, including social media.
The app is a godsend for Nairobi, a city where taxi drivers are famous for deceiving their clients at will. Others have been known to steal and even rape their clients. Maramoja gives the clients the peace of mind, understanding that the driver has been suggested by someone they trust.
The usage of blockchain has had its difficulties. For one, the technology isn’t as publicly known or used in Nairobi. Nevertheless, he understands that it’s only a matter of time before blockchain becomes a household name. He stated, “While educating the populace on the blockchain might be hard, once they see the benefits of using it and as we create a user-friendly interface, things will scale quickly.”
UTU Technologies raised $500,000 in December 2019. As Srivatsa unveiled, these funds have been directed to “create the product, scope the AI for different use cases, start building the blockchain protocol, and hire more talent.” The company recently has a team of 35 at its headquarters in Nairobi. It also has a research and collaborative partnership with the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.
The company has significant dreams, attempting to create models of trust for the modern era. Srivatsa said in a statement, “UTU’s vision is to become the trust infrastructure of the entire internet, replacing anonymous star ratings, reviews, and scores as the de facto trust mechanisms of digital commerce. We do this in service of our mission to protect data and privacy as we help make the internet a safer, more trusted place to gather, share, work, and trade. Furthermore, as we develop our blockchain protocol, we will soon be able to use privacy-preserving smart contracts to perform transactions.”