An initiative using digital technology to gather more accurate data and provide speedier assessments about the condition of road signage in Barbados was recently launched by the Ministry of Transport, Works, and Water Resources.
The National Signage and Street Infrastructure Project (NSSIP), as it is called, will help officials at MTWW better identify signs that need to be fixed, so that repairs and replacements could be strategically planned and executed.
According to MTWW’s Chief Planning Officer, Mark Durant, 40 Community Auditors will use an app, developed by a local firm, Caribbean Transit Solutions, to capture critical information with mobile phones.
Participants, placed in teams of two, will travel across the island to digitally document and geotag the location and condition of street signs along 20 routes, totalling 480 km, over eight weeks. They will focus on the state of finger-tip signs, directional signs, and locational signs.
“For the first time in the Ministry, we are using the technology in the field to help us do the observation and assessment…. The Ministry has never had an asset management tool to tell the Ministry where any of its assets are, that was a paper-based function. So, now it will help the Ministry with its maintenance because it is a good tool for monitoring,” Mr. Durant said, adding that in the future a similar approach may be used to locate and assess the condition of wells, traffic lights, potholes, and other street infrastructure or impediments.
Community Auditors will use the app to enter the condition of the sign, whether good or bad; the information on the sign, and its location. They will also upload a photograph of the sign to the app, and this geo-locates its position on the Ministry’s digital map. This helps the Ministry to accurately identify its location, and assign any maintenance required.
During a recent training session, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Transport, Works, and Water Resources, Santia Bradshaw, told the participants that their role and the data they were required to capture were critical.
“In order for the Ministry to improve and to be able to meet the needs that the public has, we’ve got to be able to figure out what is breaking down, and what is the state in which we have it, and therefore be able to fix it. That’s why your role in executing this project is going to be so important in addressing the concerns that all of us have, as Bajans, in dealing with the broken-down infrastructure that we see across the island,” she said, encouraging the participants to give of their best.
Minister Bradshaw added that once resources were available, the second phase of the project would incorporate utilising creative persons within communities to create signage for their districts.
Veronica Millington, whose company developed the app, praised the NSSIP. “Technology is actually a perfect fit for this type of project because, without it, you would then be walking around with a notepad trying to document…. Whereas with the implementation or integration of technology, you just go to the point where the sign is, stand next to it, drop a pin, and enter the information. So, in less than a minute or two, you can get the information logged in a way that everyone else can use it,” Ms. Millington said.
From Monday, February 20, Community Auditors began documenting signages along their routes. They will wear MTWW identification cards. Many expressed that they were excited to be part of the NSSIP.
According to Community Auditor, Nahketa Harris: “It is a good idea. We need more signs in Barbados. We have visitors who come to Barbados driving around to see the scenery. So, the signs will give them an idea of where they are, and how to get to and from where they’re going without getting lost.”
Community Audit Supervisor, Mario Holder added: “The NSSIP is a great initiative. I think it is long overdue. It is beneficial in terms of speed. Whereas a person walking around using paper, writing, and labelling stuff, makes it very difficult for us to do the data entry and data collection. The technology allows us to do the process a lot faster, so we can actually get the stuff rectified as soon as possible for the safety of Barbadians and our tourism product.”