Ministry of Trade PS Geraldine Ssali in Anti-Corruption court dock

Digitisation: Step to reducing road carnage

Stellah Namatovu

What you need to know:

  • The need to have a comprehensive digital system that links data from both police and health facilities is key and indeed we look forward to seeing a harmonisation of systems.

Every road safety report released in the recent past has been received with the customary stunned reactions, and more fervent pledges by all stakeholders to do more to stem the tide of road carnage in Uganda.

The Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) annual road safety report 2022 released in December last year returned another blue scorecard. Topline statistics revealed that the deaths increased by one percent from 419 in 2021 to 425 in 2022, while the crashes shot up by five percent in 2022 compared to 2021.

The report, authored by KCCA in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies Initiative for Global Road Safety (BIGRS), recommended leveraging emerging technologies, specifically digitisation of crash data collection.

Reviewing the short-term impact of digitisation of data collection from  countries or cities that have gone ahead of Uganda paints an optimistic picture with the Mona Lisa-esque smirk; “not yet where I want to be but not where I was.”

India holds the record of the most dangerous roads in the world. The road carnage accounts for approximately 150,000 deaths every year, translating to more than 400 deaths a day. With merely a fraction of the global auto mobiles at two percent, the country accounts for approximately 12 percent of global road fatalities, and a jaw dropping 450,000 road crashes reported every year.

The  country’s authorities embarked on a technological path to address the scourge, specifically leveraging the TRL Software iMAAP in one of the hardest-hit states. Himachal Pradesh was identified as the pilot state. Despite its sparse population and various government efforts, the state recorded one of the country’s worst road death rates accounting for nearly 16 people per 100,000 of its population (compared to a national average of 11.5).

Leveraging one of the world-leading crash data analysis systems, the authorities were able to both understand past crashes and identify patterns that could forecast and prevent potential crashes. There was the creation of a standardised database easing availability and accessibility to useful information by all the different stakeholders.

Today, crash data can be collected, monitored and analysed faster, leading to quicker implementation of interventions such as the relocation of police stops and ambulance resources closer to the identified black spots.

In India, the deployment of technology is still in its infancy but the early signs are already hinting at a significant reduction in road crashes by 25-30 percent. In Uganda, the Directorate of Traffic and Road Safety is currently capturing crash data on a digital system for Kampala City but due to limited resources, it has not yet been scaled up. This system has improved the quality of crash data recorded in Kampala City. 

The need to have a comprehensive digital system that links data from both police and health facilities is key and indeed we look forward to seeing a harmonisation of systems. Furthermore, every stakeholder, especially at the implementation end of the process, should be engaged and ready to effect the intervention measures in real time.

Digitisation almost ensures immediate entry and analysis of data, but the process is not complete until the necessary measures are likewise implemented at the same speed.

The other aspect is the procurement and maintenance of the necessary equipment such as computers, GPS gadgets, etc. The emphasis is to ensure the gadgets are in the hands of the right people all the time and in case of any breakdown, the replacement process should be expedited to avoid any glitch in the process.

The cost-benefit analysis of digitisation is impressive. In India’s case study, besides saving life, road safety carnage inflicts a heavy economic burden on the government estimated at $58 billion every year. With the digitisation of road safety data, estimates indicate that for every rupee spent on crash prevention measures, the government is saving around six rupees of public money.

Ms Namatovu is the BIGRS-KCCA Surveillance coordinator.
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