Information Technology has played a key role in enhancing efficiency in different industries and Highways is no exception. With growing emphasis on faster and quality infrastructure development to place Nation?s economy on growth trajectory, the time is ripe for deployment of IT in Highways for effective and efficient delivery.? Venkata Subba Rao takes a closer look.
Natioal Highnways in the country today cater to 40% of the commercial traffic significant in volume to impact the national economy. Inherent system inefficiencies are resulting in delays in approvals, delayed land acquisition, construction delays, and quality issues directly affecting the ability to achieve targets. Even the operation and maintenance phase is clouded with issues of improper repair and maintenance of assets, loss of lives in road accidents, delays at toll plaza. Irony is that today we do not have a measurement system in place to benchmark the performance which can enable the decision makers to diagnose and fix the problems.
Current IT Deployment In a highway project multiple agencies participate with varied degree of involvement during different stages of the project life-cycle (Exhibit 1). Alignment of the objectives and management of expectations each of the stakeholders at different stages of project is the key to successful implementation of the project. Project teams can greatly get benefited from deployment of technology establishing and sustaining a collaborative environment and effective communication amongst the stakeholders.
Currently technology deployments have found their way in fragments varying in degree at different stages of project life-cycles. Amongst the most deployed applications were in design, planning and toll collection activities i.e., AutoCAD, STAAD, MOSS for design and MS Project, Primavera for planning. Toll management systems with customized POS Software at lanes with different technologies for payment (Barcode, Smartcard, RFID Tags, Microwave etc.) and vehicle classification (Loop, Treadles, Infrared Sensor, Laser Scanners) were found to be implemented. Amongst all GIS and GPS technology is unfolding itself and is one of the fastest growing deployments in highways.
Sporadic implementations of web-based systems in tendering, tolling, asset management and document management systems were observed at some of the projects. Some of the latest technologies such as RFID were also found their place in highway asset management system. Evolution of mobile communication made its footprint in the highways industry also and is facilitating communication amongst project stakeholders.
Most disturbing aspect has been that the critical areas of projects such as project approvals, land acquisition, progress tracking/monitoring, asset management which can dramatically improve the delivery of the highway projects have not found technology implementations.
Business Process Analysis
Analysis of projects at different stages of life-cycle and stakeholders involved (both government and private) uncovered the following areas of improvement:
1. Duplication of Effort ? Same data related to a project is collected at different stages of the project by different stakeholders for their decision making duplicating the effort. Ideal situation could be that the data collected on various facets for a project could be made reusable.
2. Accuracy of Data ? Deployment of different methods and equipments for collection of same data by different stakeholders of a project and across projects makes the reliability and accuracy of the data difficult. Over and above deployment of unskilled man-power and improperly calibrated equipment adds up to the owes.
3. Lack of Performance Measurement Database – There is no unified system to capture, store, analyze and retrieve data on performance of processes, equipment, stakeholders and assets. Lack of standardization in data collection formats, digital format specifications, definitions, performance metrics etc. across life of projects and stakeholders is a biggest stumble block for implementation of world?s largest PPP based highway development program. Lack of past performance data of machinery is leading to poor selection/procurement of equipment and poor planning of preventive maintenance activities. Ideally, existence of such a system can enable the authorities and decision makers to design and implement a proper reward/recognition or penalty scheme.
4. Lack of data sharing platform among stakeholders – Though some systems are deployed in isolation at some projects the same are not deployed on an integrated platform and though good could not be carried forward by their successors. This brings to light the non-availability of a common platform to share data/information across stakeholders. With implementation of more than 10,000 kms. of national highway projects with the help of almost 100+ concessionaires or contractors, Consultants across the country would have generated large amount of data/information/knowledge bank if shared on a common platform for stakeholders would enable building better, safe, efficient and economical roads in future.
5. Absence of Holistic framework for deployment of IT Solutions ? Though there is transition into digital/electronic data exchange between stakeholders, lack of standardization, performance orientation and inconsistent technology adoption among them is lead to interoperability problems making the implementations redundant over long run. It was observed that large numbers of IT solutions were deployed across different segments of highways but in isolation without an integrated framework and end user focus.