Teaching students the value of active citizenry, human-centered design, and civic tech

Students learn how to add their own knowledge to TaxiMap’s growing database of minibus taxi routes in South Africa

Durban University of Technology students participated in an interactive minibus taxi mapping workshop on the 21 October 2019. The third-year planning students have learned about public transport planning during their coursework this year.

However, the workshop was the first time any of them had looked at mapping informal public transport routes. It was also the first time many of them had ever used Google maps to map their own transport routes. The students were very engaging, enjoyed contributing their own knowledge to TaxiMap’s growing database of minibus taxi routes in South Africa and gave positive feedback. “Amazing, informative and relevant to my everyday context” was one of the participant’s overall feedback.

Hosted by Open Data Durban, in collaboration with TaxiMap, Durban University of Technology and with funding from the Civic Tech Innovation Network (CTIN), the workshop was a unique learning experience for students — teaching them about the value of active citizenry, human-centered design, and civic tech.

The students helped TaxiMap by updating the prices of several minibus taxi routes, giving feedback on the usability of the platform, and mapping new routes that didn’t already exist. In pairs, the students reviewed existing routes on the TaxiMap website and updated the relevant prices. Most of the +1100 routes on the TaxiMap website were captured in 2017, and the prices needed updating. At present, taxi route information is commonly available by word of mouth.

Commuters are familiar with the routes they take on a regular basis and only on exception will one take a taxi to a new place or destination. To do so, they need to ask someone where to go and where to wait for the right taxi, how often it operates and where or when it is safe to travel on your own or with someone. Learning how to access information about taxi route information will increase their potential mobility. TaxiMap is free to use, an open-source platform that provides taxi route information that is normally only known and shared via word of mouth. You can also search for minibus taxi routes, fares and information on www.taximap.co.za and offer feedback too.
To identify and map new routes, the students were guided step-by-step on how to map a missing transport route using the My Maps function on Google Maps. They added 7 new routes to the TaxiMap database — 4 in Durban, 1 in Johannesburg, 1 in Stanger, and 1 in Pietermaritzburg.

The workshop was also an important user testing exercise providing TaxiMap with valuable feedback for improving the design and usability of the website.

Hack for Human Rights received a grant from Civic Tech Innovation Network to host this event, part of a series of regional peer-learning events.

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Melissa Tsungai Zisengwe

 

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