ITS in the developing world? Challenges and Solutions

Minibus Taxis, while largely informally organized, represent an important transportatoin mode in Sub-Saharan Africa and in many parts of the developing world.

In his introduction to the challenges of developing ITS systems for developing countries, Simon Anderson (Stellenbosch University) shared a quote: “To a large extent what has been done in the first world, needs to be unlearnt to address the third world challenges.” Presentations focused on the use of ITS for increased safety and comfort in public transportation and road design.


Minibus taxis are a common travel mode in Sub-Saharan Africa. Lagos, Nigeria alone has over 80,000 informal minibuses. The dominant mode of urban public transport in South Africa, minibus taxis perform a variety of different transportation roles and essentially replace the developed world’s metered cabs, urban busses and long distance coaches. Safety represents one of the biggest challenges in this sector. Africa has 2% of the worlds vehicles but 20% of the worlds road deaths. Dr. Anderson mentioned that passengers in these minibuses are essentially at the mercy of the driver.

ITS has potential to be used in support of informal public transportation for occupancy detection, tracking, driver behavior and the application of taxis as a data courier.
Adriaan Zeeman (Stellenbosch University) presented his work on a reckless driving detection system for minibus taxis. However it was pointed out that the application of this system depends on the uptake of the main stakeholders which include government, informal minibus owners and drivers. Minibus owners are predominantly interested in a solution that will not negatively affect their income.

Monica Giannini from PluService, an Italian mobility information services company, shared the application of ITS system on third world public transport vehicles. On-board equipment was used on minibus taxis in Cape Town to create a demand responsive transit system to transfer passengers from the transit centre to their final destination.
Another of the problems seen on the roads in South Africa is the lack of lighting, particularly in rural areas. JH Le Roux (Stellenbosch University) presented a design for a new system for controllable road studs that matches the developing country requirements by being easily deployable, controllable, cost effective without being dependent on local infrastructure. These new road studs were shown to be cost-beneficial, increasing safety enough to justify their increased cost when compared to traditional studs.

It is that an opportunity exists to use ITS in developing countries, when locally application solutions are developed with local stakeholders. While the South African studies, presented in this session, can provide insights to the rest of the developing world, this session could have benefited from a more diverse collection of research from a range of developing regions. In his closing remarks Dr. Anderson expressed hope that next year our presentations can stem from more corners of the world.

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