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08/10/2013

Kenya's first Wi-fi matatu increases fortunes for owner.

Matatus - the ramshackle public mini-buses seating between 14 and 24 people that zip along the streets of Kenya's capital Nairobi - carry a third of the city's residents to and from work each day.
The journey from the city centre to the working-class suburb of Rongai takes between 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on traffic.

Yet inside the "Ferguson" matatu - named for its colourful images of the former Manchester United manager - half a dozen passengers seem oblivious to the length of their commute.
Instead, they sit glued to their smartphones, checking the latest news, YouTube videos and catching up on emails.
Ferguson is one of over 1,000 matatus in the city now equipped with free wi-fi for passengers to enjoy through a service called Vuma Online, launched this April by Safaricom, Kenya's biggest telecom company.
The goal, according to Kevin Bett of Safaricom, is to "convert [passengers] to internet users".

But for matatu drivers and conductors it's giving them an edge over intense competition for passengers.
"We get more passengers," says Victor Njuguna, a Vuma-equipped matatu conductor. "They actually wait for our bus - they want to enjoy free wi-fi."

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