NAIROBI (Reuters) – Google, said on Monday it would offer Motorbike Mode on Google Maps in Kenya, offering the voice navigation service for bike riders in Africa for the first time.
Kenyan roads are full of motorcycles taxis, known as boda bodas, that are much cheaper rides to car taxis.
Google, part of the U.S. firm Alphabet Inc, already provides the service in Asian nations, such as India.
“For over a million Kenyans, boda bodas are a convenient and affordable way to move and transport goods from one place to another,” Google said in a statement.
“With Google Maps’ new Motorbike Mode, users across Kenya will now be able to get directions and turn-by-turn navigation, to suggest routes that are more efficient,” it said.
Streets in Kenyan cities and towns are often poorly signposted and frequently congested, making it hard for boda boda drivers to pick up customers when they hail them by phone.
“What prevents us from picking some clients is lack of navigation. If the road doesn’t have a clear name and you are new to the area, you get lost,” said Ben Chelule, a 24-year old boda boda driver in Nairobi.
Google also said it was launching its Street View service in Kenya for the first time, allowing users to virtually explore via its images 9,500 km (6,000 miles) of roads in cities such as Nairobi and holiday destinations such as Malindi on the coast.
The company has also set aside 100 million shillings ($992,000) to train Kenyan farmers in digital skills, it added.
Google’s Kenya manager, Charles Murito, said the company had targeted farmers because it employed 40 percent of the population and accounted for a third of gross domestic product (GDP).
“We want to see the power of technology elevate small scale farming. We hope that through this initiative, we will see a positive impact in food security, job creation and GDP growth in Kenya,” he said.
($1 = 100.8500 Kenyan shillings)
Additional reporting by John Ndiso; Editing by Edmund Blair