Exclusive: Hackney woman’s plan to revolutionize how taxi drivers study for the Knowledge

Thanks to her cousin and husband, Hackney resident Davina Duggan, stumbled on to the idea of developing an App for trainee taxi drivers, and is now attempting to bring a specialist method of study into the wired 21st century.

The knowledge of London, better known as the “Knowledge”, is a test anyone wanting to qualify as a traditional  London black  cab driver has to pass, and has been around for 147 years with little change to it.  It is what sets London taxi drivers apart from their contemporaries world wide.  First, they have to get to know on a very intimate level, the myriad of streets in a six-mile radius of Charing Cross.

It can take anything from two years or longer of hard training, and three-quarters of those who embark on the course drop out at some point.  Training is based on 320 pre defined routes set out by the Public Carriage Office (PCO), they include all places of interest, museums, hospitals, police stations, cinema’s, statues, monuments, restaurants, government buildings and everything in between.

Revolutionizing: Davina Duggan

“My Cousin Simon is studying for the Knowledge, he’s trying to complete the  four books of pre-defined routes and that’s just the first stage” Davina told Hackney Hive, “one day my husband came up with the idea of an app, so I researched it, saw there was nothing like it on the market yet, thought it was a good idea and ran with it”.

Duggan describes it as “a multi-platform smartphone App for iPhone, Blackberry and Android mobile phones, which will help trainee taxi drivers to revise for the Knowledge of London Examination System. It will offer a fun, interactive user experience to enhance learners’ revision for the world’s most demanding training course for trainee taxicab in the UK”.

“I’m not saying the knowledge should be easier for people to pass but even the London Chamber of Commerce said that the current method of assessment creates an unreasonably high barrier to entry, and that some modernization will reduce the high drop-out rate.

“Researchers say there is a worrying trend towards  older drivers choosing not to work longer hours particularly evenings and peaking at the busiest times, which is Saturday nights, that’s what I’m focused on.”

She adds;  “The App will not change the way the knowledge is assessed by the  London Taxi and Private Hire (formerly PCO) but we do hope it will go some way in enhancing the experience of learning the points and the runs. Basically it will have an interactive map of London within a 6 mile radius of Charing Cross;display the 320 runs at the click of a button and calculate the shortest possible route.

“It will also allow you to change defined runs to avoid traffic hotspots, change of road layouts, road works and other unique features.

“I am also taking on board comments and suggestions from knowledge students and current taxi drivers. So far one experienced cabbie has suggested a flash card system, which has already been incorporated into the App”.

To help with development and marketing of the App, Duggan is raising funds via “Crowd Funding” and aim to raise £10,000

Having a back ground in research helped mother of two Duggan, who by day is a Parliamentary Consultant to Labour MP’s and writes ministerial policy replies for the public sector.  Prior to politics, Davina started with the Metropolitan Police as a Communications officer for 3 1/2 years.

A graduate of Nottingham Trent University and Goldsmiths College, Davina started working for ITN as a Runner on Tonight With Trevor McDonald  and later became the first Black Assistant News Editor.  When asked if entering politics was in her plans, Davina responded “right now my family comes first.”

To find out more check out Set Apart Solutions crowd funding page and You Tube video below.

You can follow Davina Duggan on Twitter and her blog My [Political] Bits

About Remi

Remi Hackney Hive founder, publisher and contributor. Hackneyite and all round Girl Friday, who couldn't wait to leave Hackney and London behind her. After hitching her wagon in California, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana for 18 years, with a brief spell in Mexico, the prodigal daughter returned happy to put an unconventional and risqué past behind her. She is owned by her two dogs Deffer(a Jack Russell & Darcy a Jack Russell/Pomeranian mix) and runs a London based pet sitting business. The big smoke is home for the moment, but she desperately yearns wide open spaces, where she hopes to call home in the near future.

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