Play #10: Pick the Easiest, Smallest Target

When you are looking to fit a technological solution into an established and well-worn process, try to fit within the easiest, smallest part of the system first.

Asad Rahman
Feb 15, 2019 · 3 min read

The Pilot: Automated Road Condition Surveys in Tanzania

If we introduce drone imagery and machine learning to road condition surveys, we will be able to assess the condition of roads more quickly and cheaply (and to the same quality).

Use this play to answer our challenge around fitting into existing systems: when the tech isn’t a fit for existing planning, decision making, execution or implementation systems in the country or domain area

This play is part of our Frontier Technology Playbook: Plays by DfID Pioneers to Overcome Development Challenges. Click here to read the other plays and an introduction to the Playbook.

The Pioneers: N-Labs, University of Nottingham

Road condition surveys today are a big job: requiring thousands of man hours in traversing tens of thousands of kilometres of roads. Today (and for many years prior), they are carried out using cars and clipboards. In Tanzania, the process is managed by the National Road Fund Board.

We knew that trying to catalyse a new way of doing road surveys at the Road Fund Board would be a long process. Instead, we identified the Zanzibar Dept. of Roads (ZDoR) — a 20–30 organisation based in one building in Zanzibar, Tanzania — as a smaller partner we could work with to prove the tech and gather evidence of it working.

With the ZDoR’s buy-in, we were able to carry out a test survey using drones and machine learning in Zanzibar. Their feedback (for example, on wanting a more precise scale) was invaluable. By embedding the tech within the working processes of a smaller bureaucracy working in a smaller geography, we better understood what was needed to eventually fit into a much bigger system.

The Practice

  1. Energising a smaller part of the system is often easier. The promise of much cheaper data, and the drones to generate the imagery, helped get the ZDoR engaged.
  2. Work in partnership. The ZDoR weren’t just there to give credence and support, but to guide our plans so the tech could best fit into existing Tanzanian systems.
  3. Identify the bit of the system that has shown signs of early adoption when it comes to tech. Zanzibar’s Dept. of Roads had worked on previous technology programmes.

Get in touch…

Email James.Goulding@nottingham.ac.uk to find out more!

Frontier Technologies Hub

Working with the UK Dept. for International Development to apply frontier technologies to the biggest challenges in development.

Asad Rahman

Written by

Applying tech and innovation to international development with UKAid. Follow us here: https://medium.com/frontier-technology-livestreaming

Frontier Technologies Hub

Working with the UK Dept. for International Development to apply frontier technologies to the biggest challenges in development.

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