#UgBlogWeek (Day 7): The Uganda I see…

Sometimes I sit through my contemplative moments in the think tank room and try to decipher the mystery that is me. Lol! No. I am not trying an attempt at vanity, beat-on-yourself post, rather – I am genuinely intrigued at the enigma that I am.

e·nig·ma
 iˈniɡmə/
(noun)
 a person or thing that is mysterious, puzzling, or difficult to understand.
 synonyms: mystery, puzzle, riddle, conundrum, paradox, problem, quandary...

For the entirety of my life, there are the ‘but I thought’ moments that later on define the next phase. Hmm… Might be a tad bit presumptuous to use ‘entirety’ seeing as I am not yet dead – ah! but who is paying close attention anyway.

One mystery that I have declared I will decipher is Tech. I have a knack for tech and I think it is really cool. No. Not the gory details of building up systems – although that too is cool. No. Not that. It’s the brainstorming, idea generation is what I find super cool. Haha! You can imagine, I would be seated right at the bottom of the process – No one really remembers who came up with the idea. However sometimes, that is not necessary – the recognition, I mean. Sometimes, all you want to see is the project done.

‘An example?’, I hear you ask.

unra
Photo Credit: @unra_ug

We are currently in a phase where the Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) is upping it’s game – working on widening several roads as well as paving new ones. Well, this would be the perfect opportunity to integrate sensors into those roads. We have a major challenge of traffic congestion in the city and in several suburbs. I think for this entity to function with increased efficiency, little things like sensors would help all government functions involved, make better informed decisions.

Now, I hear thoughts like ‘we don’t have the budget’ OR ‘that needs Internet’ – You do not need a huge budget, or those ridiculously looking shiny sensor gadgets that Hollywood portrays. Nor do you need perfectly functioning MAN (Metropolitan Area Network, tehehe – I got you there, didn’t I?).

bluetooth_street_big
Libelium Vehicle Traffic Monitoring Bluetooth sensors over Zigbee. Understanding the flow and congestion of vehicular traffic is essential for efficient road systems in cities.

What do you need, according to the idea in my head? You need low cost, low maintenance sensors. They can communicate to each other using ZigBee. Then have them talk to a central sensor hub. Now this is the point (the central sensor hub) that would need an internet connection – a simple GSM sim card to communicate 4 times a day (to start with – after that we can move to real time delivery) to a server sitting some where.

No, sadly, this is not an original idea – this type of system is already being used/rather was being used for sewerage monitoring. Also Libelium have an identical idea, but uses both Bluetooth and Zigbee to monitor both pedestrians and vehicle traffic.

What you need to collect? How about number of cars that use that route? The different times of the day that are considered peak. The different circumstances on the route, i.e. One Way, Traffic-Officer Controlled, Traffic lights controlled route, Weather details, near-by structures like schools and hospitals.

What if we compared this data with other things like number of accidents on a particular route? Looked at the state of those roads – do they have pedestrian walkways? What if said data communicated with traffic lights and turned them off and on depending on actual networked traffic data?

What if…??

Local innovation hubs are teeming up with brilliant minds that can make this work. Not to mention the presence of start ups like FundiBots – that actually work with robotics and sensors.

Gone is the era where such ideas awed us! This is the time we should be thinking about how we can make things work in our own context.

Now will UNRA read this? Maybe someone over there has already pitched  a similar idea or will someone grab this idea and run to them with a pitch in dollar bills (pronounced Dalla-Bills)? Or will the cynicism that seems to be creeping up on the populace ahead of #UgandaDecides, cause them to read this and rubbish it saying things like – ‘Ah! Now see this one. We have other problems.‘, ‘the government… blah blah‘,’it will never change‘…

Sometimes, my mind goes on little detours like this one. I also think it is important to note that there are people who come up with ideas and there are people who are excellent at implementing the ideas. In rare exceptional cases, there people who can do both (round of applause for students everywhere).

It’s important to figure out which you are and not let the prestige carried with a title tempt you down a path that you will inevitably fail at.

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11 thoughts on “#UgBlogWeek (Day 7): The Uganda I see…”

  1. Okay, I read this before my morning cup of tea, so that might be why I am confused. I thought this post was going to be about you. But okay, it can be about roads and still be great.

    I live for the day I will drive 50km without encountering some form of Ugandan road foolishness. Warped roads, black holes, no lights, no markings, too narrow, no drainage, rumble strips the size of anthills…

    One day…

    Like

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