The idea of ridesharing comes to Saipan with the launch last Friday of the IslandRide application at the Royal Taga Ballroom of the Saipan World Resort in Susupe, with over a hundred potential drivers and users attending the launch event.
Owned by Digital Saipan, the IslandRide app is being dubbed as Saipan’s version of Uber and Grab and offers to transport people, goods, and services though ridesharing.
The launch was hosted by Digital Saipan marketing manager Robert Exley, who said there is a dire need for public and mass transportation on island that they want to help fill, which is why they came up with IslandRide. “People can start using the IslandRide app starting this week as we already have a pool of drivers that have been vetted and completed all the requirements . As for the mode of payment, cash payment shall be accepted for the first three months. …[That] will give us time to work with the local vendors—whether they would be groceries, restaurants or hotels—to carry IslandRide prepaid cards that riders can use,” he said.
“…the island is so diverse—we have locals and immigrants—and the latter most of the time do not have access or don’t want a bank card…,” Exley said. “So at the end of the day, riders can use bank cards or prepaid cards.”
He said the company is also working
on making people use WeChat or PayPal as a mode of payment “so there are a variety of ways riders can pay and drivers can get the value of their service, ” he added.
According to Exley, the IslandRide app is available on all iPhone and Android users.
“…for iPhone users, the Apple Store has already cleared all security for the IslandRide app. …We are still waiting for Google Play for Android users but they are telling us it’s going to be available any day.” Until then, Android user can download the app from the Digital Saipan website, www.islandride.tk.
“We got people who are excited about this service. People that had good questions and comments that made it clear that our greatest asset has been the people who want to institute the technology, whether they would be passengers or riders,” he said
The basic functions of the IslandRide app starts with passengers typing their pick-up and drop-off locations. The estimated fare and time of arrival will appear, the nearest driver will appear with his information, and will respond and take the passenger to the preferred destination. The IslandRide app also comes in different languages. User can use English, Tagalog, Korean, Japanese and Chinese languages and the IslandRide app allows users to book in advance.
During the whole process, both driver and passenger are tracked by Digital Saipan through geolocation. “Safety is our No. 1 concern. That is why our drivers are vetted, passengers can pick their driver based on the ratings that that driver get from other passengers. …Aside from transporting people, we are also in the business of transporting goods—groceries, take-out food and many more,” Exley said.
Sen. Sixto Igisomar, who was present at the app launch, is optimistic about this service coming to the CNMI. “…We currently have taxicab service but, unfortunately, they are just too expensive as a choice for us to go around. As much as our Department of Commerce Taxi Bureau tries to pass and regulate licensing, there are still a lot of illegal taxicabs, which means their activities are not screened and safety of the community becomes an issue,” he said.
“We have buses from the Commonwealth Office of Transport Authority but, [because of] funding challenges, we have a hard time realizing the vision to have a transport system in the entire island. …The fact that these guys went this far to make our community live better, we are praying…that they can succeed and mobilize our people to go from one end to another,” he added.
Potential driver Cesar Antonio of San Antonio said he looksg forward to being a part of the fleet and is looking at doing the service full time. “I am currently unemployed and this gives people like me an opportunity to have a good job and earn money.”
Exley also unveiled plans of opening the website “IslandRideStore.com” in the near future. That is envisioned as a digital marketplace, where the community can buy and sell goods, furniture, appliances etc.
“The IslandRide Store is a medium where the community can sell goods to one another, making trade and exchange convenient for the community and have IslandRide drivers deliver the goods right at your doorstep,” he said.
For interested in becoming full-time or part-time drivers, visit their website at www.digitalsaipan.com or www.islandride.tk or call (670) 287-9758.