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Kerala to pilot single open-mobility network for all public transport in Kochi using Beckn protocols

Alongside Beckn’s dry run in Kochi, the central government is also working on its own open protocol network for online retailers. 

The state government of Kerala is looking to integrate all of its traffic-related facilities into a single network with the help of the Beckn foundation co-founded by Nandan Nilekani, according to a report in the Mathrubhumi. The city of Kochi has been chosen for the trial run as it provides every mode of public transport from bicycles to a metro.  

Why it matters? The app seemingly facilitates a cashless transit across multiple modes of public transport wherein citizens will be able to avail any service using a single open-mobility network app. According to the KMTA’s website, all mobility apps in the network are built in such a way as to enable them to communicate with each other in the same language. This will allow citizens to book seats on ferries, the metro, buses, and even rent bicycles. It is also expected to help citizens find parking spots and Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations.

Trial to be conducted in Kochi with Yatri app

The scheme will see its pilot phase in Kochi under the Kochi Metropolitan Authority (KMTA). Kochi Open Mobility Network (KOMN) will be rolled out as per the open protocol floated in Beckn’s concept paper

The ‘Yatri’ app, developed for taxi drivers, will commence the trial for KOMN’s first phase. According to a report in The Hindu,  drivers will not need to pay commission to the promoters of the Yatri app. An official informed the newspaper that over 1,000 car drivers, mostly members of five trade unions present in Kochi, have enrolled under Yatri. He explained further that all cars will operate as per government-fixed tariff with no room for surge fare.

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Mathrubhumi reported that other services are expected to be gradually integrated into the app along with logistics. The apps which will be embedded eventually into KOMN are: 

  • Kochi metro (Kochi1) 
  • AuSa (AutoSavari) prepared for auto drivers 
  • Vandi app for buses  

Moreover, KSRTC (Kerala State Road Transport Corporation) and the boats of the Kerala State Water Transport Department will also be linked to this network. 

The Mathrubhumi report also elaborated that public and private traffic facilities, as well as all service providers related to commuting, will be integrated with KOMN. Furthermore, small retail shops in a locality which cannot afford an app to market commodities will be able to deliver products to their customers with KOMN.

Sujith Nair, CEO and Co-founder of Beckn, in a thread on Twitter, said that KOMN is an open network without a centre. “The power moves to the edge of the network, to the only edges that matter— the rider and the provider with no one in the middle accruing all the power,” he added.

What is Beckn’s open protocol? 

The non-profit entity Beckn is “an open protocol that enables location-aware, local commerce across industries to be discovered and engaged by Beckn-enabled applications,” according to its website. 

A report in Entrackr has described Beckn as a UPI-like open specification for commerce and mobility. It further adds that the protocol works as an integrated marketplace that provides a level playing field to new players and incumbents who can use Beckn to reach more customers. Nandan Nilekani, along with Pramod Varma and Sujith Nair, founded Beckn in late 2019. 

Nilekani was involved in deploying many government tech initiatives: he is the founding chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the government body that issues Aadhaar cards, and the head of TAGUP, a government advisory group looking into the technological aspects of financial projects like GST and TIN.

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Govt planning its own open network

The central government is also looking to develop its own open protocol under ONDC (Open Network for Digital Commerce). It is a digital project launched by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) in 2020 to develop an open UPI-like architecture for the e-commerce landscape. Recently, a nine-member committee was set up to advise the government on measures needed to design and accelerate the adoption of ONDC. 

The project will reportedly set protocols for operational aspects of e-commerce like cataloguing, vendor discovery, and price discovery, and standardise the process of onboarding retailers onto e-marketplaces as well as the supply and delivery of products through online channels. These processes will be open source ensuring that the platform can be used by all online retailers as compared to proprietary processes and technology of e-commerce companies. 

According to reports, the ONDC is also being implemented to curb digital monopolies in the wake of complaints of malpractices and monopolistic tendencies of existing e-commerce companies like Amazon and Flipkart. Small retailers, both online and offline, have accused these companies of prioritising affiliated sellers over others.

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