While the automated surveillance system certainly adds a new dimension to traffic management, the government’s questionable track record in implementing other projects on the ground casts a shadow over its latest venture, according to Professor Shamsul Hoque.
Pointing to the “lack of transparency and accountability” in some of the previous ventures, the expert fears that purchases made under STI projects could end up being wasted.
Several initiatives focusing on road safety have been taken in the past, including by traffic police, according to Professor Shamsul. Numerous signs and traffic lights were installed in the city of Dhaka as the prospect of traffic management using digital methods was raised by the authorities. But after a few months, the plan to transition from an analog to a digital traffic management model fell through. Ultimately, traffic in the megacity is controlled using the analog system.
Highlighting plans to introduce digital signage system on Dhaka-Mymensingh expressway to reduce road accidents, he said, “Initially, loads of products and equipment were purchased without any form transparency and accountability. When these shoddy products started to malfunction within days, requisitions of 100,000 Tk funding for cameras worth 10,000 Tk were made.
“Then it was said that there was no need to spend so much money on equipment and so the program was discontinued.”
Professor Shamsul believes that the country’s road management system is very ‘fragile’ and has emphasized ‘institutional capacity building’ to make sustainable progress.
“There must be accountability. But we have not yet developed that professionalism here. We lack institutional capacity.
Drawing on his past experiences that fuel his apprehension about new projects, he looks back on an initiative to set up four smart signals for traffic management in Dhaka. But after four years of work, it was decided that the project could only be implemented if the rickshaws were removed from the streets of Dhaka.
“Why couldn’t they realize that it would not be possible to implement the project without removing the rickshaws before taking it over? Realization only came after the purchase of many materials. That’s what I mean by lack of institutional capacity,” he said. said.
He worries that new projects will end up taking the same path as some of their predecessors.
“There’s also the issue of manpower and mindset to get ITS technology to work properly. It is not possible to implement digital technology projects with an analog mindset. This project will not be sustainable without a skilled workforce,” he said.