About this time last year, Facebook made a commitment to use innovation and skills development to help develop and nurture communities in Nigeria by providing a platform where developers and startups can collaborate, learn and exchange ideas. This it did by partnering with CcHUB (CO-Creation Hub) as well as some other organizations such as Ventures park, Co Lab and others to launch the NG_HUB.
The launch of the hub was hinged on the importance of SMEs to Facebook as it became a platform for ecommerce to thrive well before the ecommerce sites and Instagram. Seeing this crucial role, Facebook launched its Nigeria-focused accelerator, FbStart Accelerator in Lagos last year.
The FbStart accelerator is a research and mentorship driven 6-month program for innovative and visionary teams daring to create solutions with advanced technologies. The accelerator provides the teams with the support they need to build and optimize value driven products and match them with resources from Facebook and CcHUB.
Supporting Nigerian innovators to build deep-tech solutions using Artificial Intelligence (AI), Data Science, Internet of Things (IoT), Augumented Reality and Virtual Reality, 15 startups were selected in August 2018 for the first cohort of the accelerator program. One of the innovators selected amongst others were the RoadPreppers (RP), the makers of the public transportation chat box lara.ng. Other innovators include Quadron Studios, Gricd Agroservices, Vetsark, AI Commons, Up Nepa amongst which are some students who are running their undergraduate, masters and even doctorate degree program such that they are able to transform some of their ideas and research into working prototype
Lara.ng is a chatbot for public transit directions in Nigeria and other developing countries. It is built on the technology of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and led by the team lead or CEO, Samuel Odeloye, Nnamdi Nwanze (CTO) and Ladi Ojora (COO). Public transportation data is not readily available in Lagos and other developing cities in the world, as such visitors to the state and residents use the app to navigate through the city. Lara.ng is a web-based application that can be used on any smartphone or device including a laptop. The chatbot has a user interface that mimics the WhatsApp platform, which creates a user experience that feels personal like talking with a family or a friend. The app provides useful insight into mobility patterns and public transit dynamics in Lagos that presents time and price estimate from your origin to your destination and help navigate through the city in a way that makes you feel like a pro.
Lara.ng offers alternative option feature where different routes to your destination with travel time and price estimate are shared. Also, she has the rideshare feature where you order for a car with Uber and Bolt (formerly Taxify). With the funding from the FbStart accelerator, Lara.ng is planning to expand into other major cities in Nigeria such as Abuja, Kaduna, Kano, Port Harcourt and Ibadan. It is hoped that as technology and innovation keeps evolving, Nigeria will get to the place where we can have better transportation data to predict traffic patterns and jams as well.
Thinking about navigating through the hustle and bustle of Lagos without being cheated by the bus conductors? Lara is ready to help.
Featured image source: Concaholic