The beginning of July was to mark yet another milestone, arguably a world first with the switch-over of Kenya’s mass transit systems into cashless mode. But with the public nonchalant about the whole affair points out a disturbing trend that highlights weaknesses in our local technology transfer and adoption process.
The banking sector saw the Kenya Bankers’ Association set a migration deadline of March 2014, thereafter moved to May 2014, to the more secure chip and pin technology for credit and debit cards used in the market in a bid to stem fraud.
On the broadcast front, the move from analog to digital has also suffered its fair share of setbacks. The Court of Appeal in December 2013 stopped the process for 45 days pending determination of a dispute on February 2014 with a September 2014 timeline given thereafter. Not accounting for the court battles between the regulator and broadcasting houses, it has been evident that the larger population, though aware of the process have not warmed up as expected.
The genesis of the problem experienced across board may lie in the framing of the expectation and the timelines given. Systems that are to see adoption by the millions cannot be introduced cold turkey and require intense consumer education and activation akin to what was done for the constitutional reform process.
In the case of cashless transit, a good start would have been to go cash-lite with benefits communicated clearly for all stakeholders. Right now, there are multiple vendors with siloed platforms, pushing product, whose sole focus has been revenue assurance for the matatu owners without much thought given to interoperability, leaving the transit service consumer confused and without any fail-safe or guarantee. No behavior changing benefits have been sold to the public that would drive adoption either. For example, it should be cheaper to pay via cashless channels.
Government as the main proponent to this industry wide change should have provided standards of interoperability to both drive competition from a service perspective and allow innovation of niche feeder offerings. The pilot could have been done smarter too on a fliud and adaptive timeline, with a differentiated approach in high potential adoption areas that have lower resistance to change versus out of city consumer communities whose virgin interaction with the technology shift will be through their familiar turn boy.
Demand creation is one of the best drivers of service uptake and involves the creation of an emotional and not technological connection to the value of a service. Government must find the trigger to ignite consumer action.