Transportation plays a vital role in an increasingly interdependent world. Economic development is also unthinkable without an efficient and effective transportation system.
Raw materials and finished goods require efficient transportation to reach their destinations with less lead time and cost. The phrase, “the army goes on its belly”, clearly indicates the critical role transportation and logistics play in achieving victory and in the defense strength a country can have.
In the Ethiopian case, the separation felt between families and relatives in the rural areas during the rainy season because of lack of road links has been expressed in poems and songs for centuries. Comparatively, the situation in Addis Abeba had always been better.
For example, over the past half century, the Anbessa City Bus Enterprise has struggled to meet the increasing demand that arose from population increase and rapid urbanisation. Despite their unpredictable operation and overcrowding of commuters, they served the public against spiking transportation costs as they are the only mass mode of transportation. The yellow and red city buses with a logo of a jumping lion on their sides are even seen as the identity of the city.
Lately, the enterprise has significantly increased the number of buses and route numbers. Though they abandoned it lately, they had once started time-based service in which drivers know when to arrive at a particular location. Even then, the public had begun to feel the impact that the inefficiency of the very enterprise it subsidises through its tax money posed.
In the past, people used to simply accept what was available to them. They were accustomed going on foot and life was relatively easy.
Now people are living a more urbanised life, which involves higher speed than before. And people are perplexed by unrelenting changes in work places and rapid urbanisation.
A casual look at Anbessa’s terminal in Merkato speaks volumes about how the assignment and reassignment of buses and drivers is handled badly. Frequently, commuters are seen begging conductors to get route numbered buses. The conductor with a remote control in his hand can change the digital route number of buses as required.
Buses also change their usual stops and commuters run pushing one another chasing the buses. Adding to the commuter’s dissatisfaction is the changing of shifts at midday that brings the movement of traffic at the Adarash area to standstill.
Meanwhile, the afternoon operation starts after the casher spent several minutes to start selling thickets. And the off-shift workers of the enterprise get in the bus and occupy the seats before the customers.
Furthermore, when buses are in excess in one route, other commuters wait losing hope of getting theirs. When conductors are asked why not to assign from that of excess busses their answer is, “thicket prices are not the same.”
The whole operation lacks flexibility. Delays and waste not only raise the cost of living but reduce quality of life.
For that matter, the situation in other state-owned enterprises (SOEs) is no different. Most of them lack clear transport strategy; whether to use their own, hire or contract transport. In some SOEs, fuel and overtime costs are alarming and getting a driver’s job in these organisations is becoming envied.
On the other hand, it is not uncommon to see government vehicles assigned to field work, transporting people and fright from regions to Addis Abeba and vice versa. Surprisingly, one can be overwhelmed by the thought that huge resources are wasted seeing the number of vehicles sheltered in an enterprise’s garage is equivalent to that of vehicles assigned to work.
In addition to not using existing capacity fully and at the optimum level, requiring more investment and believing that every problem is solved with the application of information and communication technology, like GPS and other software programs, is a major problem in most SOEs.
These organizations must work out how to optimally utilize existing resources to the effective delivery of the services they are responsible for and to satisfy their customers. It is only then that the application of software program could help.
The late quality guru, Edward Deming once said,” if I were a banker, I would not lend money for new equipment unless the company that asked for the loan could demonstrate by statistical evidence that they are using their present equipment to a reasonably full capacity.”
Therefore, reducing waste of time and other resources and increasing public satisfaction should be the concern of public organizations. It is impossible to build an industrial society that we wish without smart transportation systems.
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