Kenya is investing heavily in new roads

Team identifies projects to cut city's gridlock

IBM experts studying Nairobi’s transport networks have provided the city with a blueprint for improving the flow of road traffic.

The recommendations complement Nairobi's considerable ongoing investment in underlying roadway infrastructure.

They include making traffic information more readily available to citizens, motorists, police, policymakers and planners so that better transportation decisions can be made in the near and far term.

The team, which performed several months of preparation before spending three weeks in local residence, studied Nairobi’s transportation system as part of an IBM Smarter Cities Challenge grant worth US$400,000), announced in March this year. The Challenge is a three-year, 100-city programme and is IBM's single-largest philanthropic outreach.

“A city is a system of systems. One key finding of the study is that technology could provide a relatively simple way of bringing together existing systems to streamline the city’s transport sector and increase revenues for the government,” said Tony Mwai, Country General Manager, IBM East Africa.

Available technologies, including mobile phones, sensors and closed-circuit television, could be used to help pinpoint traffic issues, the team suggested.

In their recommended plan, parking and licensing would also be digitised and automated, streamlining bureaucratic processes and increasing citizen satisfaction.

The plan also  calls for greater collaboration between various transport bodies.

“The government has made immense investments in infrastructure over the last 10 years but we are challenged by the fact that many departments within government are working in isolation and not collaborating,” said Dr Bitange Ndemo, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communications.

The IBM consultants recommended the creation of a cross-departmental Smarter Transportation Authority that would harness initiatives taking place across government agencies under a single unit.

This would allow for faster rollout of decongestion plans, enhancing revenue collection for government agencies and tightening enforcement of traffic rules.

They also advised the development of a Smarter Transportation Platform with an intelligent operations command centre, taking advantage of existing and new closed-circuit television networks that show vehicle, traffic and roadway conditions as events unfold.

Enabling the public and police to view these video feeds online would lead to reduced traffic congestion by allowing commuters to plan their trips accordingly and police to allocate manpower more efficiently.

Another suggestion was to integrate data from multiple sources, including mobile phone signals generated from citizens stuck in traffic jams, to pin-point traffic hot-spots.

Analytics software could then be used to predict future flow issues, giving the operations centre the information needed to re-direct traffic.

“We will review these recommendations made by the IBM team with a view to fast-tracking them to help maintain Nairobi’s position as a key regional economic hub,” Dr Ndemo said.

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