The Technology-based transportation solutions springing up in countries across the world can only thrive with adequate public and private sector support.
From global ride-hailing platforms to regional and local apps for carpooling or for making public transport more reliable, entrepreneurs all over have been working hard to solve the pressing mobility challenges facing many cities and countries.
Jordan has been no stranger to this trend. I have previously written about Maan Nasel’s efforts in building the first public transport map and subsequent smartphone app for Amman. But there are several other ideas that have been or are currently being developed to make it easier for people in Jordan to move around.
I have had the pleasure to hear about many of these ideas and to serve as an advisor for the entrepreneurs working on some of them. Through my interactions, I have noticed common themes and challenges faced by the different teams in developing their ideas and getting them up and running.
We must build a support system that can allow these different ideas to grow into startups and successful companies. Jordan’s transportation challenges are growing rapidly, and the government cannot go at it alone in addressing them.
The government can, however, provide the critical elements of such a support system. It can do so as follows:
- Talk to the Entrepreneurs:
Transport regulatory agencies—namely the Ministry of Transport, the Land Transport Regulatory Commission, the Greater Amman Municipality, and the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority—should open their doors to innovators working on transportation solutions. Engagement is key in making sure the ideas develop into viable solutions that are relevant to the Jordanian context.
- Provide Access to Data:
The various agencies have access to different types of data, such as traffic volumes, surveys, and so on, collected on a regular basis or even in real time. Open data platforms should be created such that entrepreneurs can access these data to analyze and build upon them and develop effective solutions.
- Simplify Regulations:
Current regulations in the transport sector are complex and involve many agencies that work in strategy development, planning, regulation, management, operations, and enforcement. They also include multiple laws, bylaws, and instructions. The government should consider ways in which these regulations could be presented in a user-friendly manner to those wishing to develop transportation solutions. Some of the entrepreneurs I’ve talked to were unaware of how their solutions could operate legally or how they would fit into the existing legal framework. In the longer run, the regulations themselves may be simplified and made more flexible to accommodate innovative solutions.
- Become a Partner:
The government can further support entrepreneurs by creating in-house incubators for startups or supporting the implementation of pilot projects, for example.
It is not only the government’s job to create this support system, the private sector also has a vital role to play. Telecom and bus operators are especially well positioned to provide the infrastructure for innovative transport solutions developed by entrepreneurs.
As a civil society group, Maan Nasel has also played an active role in this regard. Last September, we organized the first public transport hackathon in Jordan. In that event, we provided local developers with the core component (the API) that we had developed for our public transport trip-planning app Khutoutna. Developers then built on that to create their own solutions. One participant went on to win a competition on a local TV show (which Maan Nasel also helped coordinate) and is currently working on implementing his solution in Amman.