Speaking to HumanIPO Justin Coetzee, chief executive officer (CEO) of the popular platform, said one of the challenges was designing the platform for web-enabled feature phones, but it was important in an African market.
GoMetro provides real time train information for Metrorail in South Africa, which in turn keeps commuters up to date with the logistics of the trains.
Coetzee said users do not have to register to use GoMetro’s services and a simple visit to the site will grant the user access to the information.
GoMetro is essentially a mobile site, which provides versatility in terms of operation so it is able to function on feature phones as well as smart phones. Its key feature is a drill-down timetable, which is accessible on a mobile phone.
“We have designed it to be more feature phone friendly than [being] smartphone user experience orientated,” said Coetzee.
Coetzee believes it is important for a service such as GoMetro to operate on feature phones because many South Africans still use them. Furthermore, 60 to 70 per cent of GoMetro’s userbase do not have Java-script enabled phones.
“We’re live in four regions: Western Cape, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape, those are the regions the trains operate [in], that makes it 11 cities in South Africa and there are about 2,200 trains services a day,” said Coetzee.
HumanIPO reported last week Wednesday Metrorail announced the launch of GoMetro’s services in the Eastern Cape, which will provide GoMetro’s services to its 40,000 commuters.
Coetzee added: “The problem is that the trains are very delayed, their punctuality rate is only [at] 40 per cent, so a person getting onto a train has greater odds of being delayed or late for work than actually being on time.”
GoMetro is connected directly to Metrorail’s control centre, which is crucial to giving commuters a “heads up” before they leave their homes. GoMetro’s default feature is a timetable, which displays on a mobile phone.
Coetzee said an exciting aspect of GoMetro is the “line announcement section,” which gives logged on users information about the exact status of the railway lines.
Coetzee said GoMetro has experienced large scale growth since its launch. He said GoMetro went from zero views a day to approximately 20,000 people visiting the site.
Furthermore GoMetro recorded approximately 750,000 trip requests last month with 500,000 uniques clocked on the browser counter.
Coetzee described the challenges faced while setting up GoMetro as “on a technical front. We faced a lot of resistance from the typical [web] design community. Because we designed [it] for feature phones... it doesn’t have the latest cutting-edge Java script pop-ups... it doesn’t look first world.”
Coetzee said he recognised a need in the market for GoMetro after using Metrorail’s services in Cape Town.
“I realised how bad the service was and it was impacting on... my life.”
Furthermore, Coetzee said he began hearing different people’s personal stories on using the trains to commute and how they were late for work “day after day”.
In terms of technology such as GoMetro improving the services of Metrorail, Coetzee said: “I think it is a step in the right direction,” although Metrorail has been dealing with underinvestment for the past 50 years.
“The carriages that they have come from the 1950s... GoMetro is not going to solve that, but what we can do is improve the commuter experience, keep them (the commuters) informed.
“We know... there’s massive investment planned for rail in the next five years. Until then we are providing an information layer so that people can make decisions.”