The Congo robot police solving traffic problems
|January 31st, 2018|
|located in:||Democratic Republic of the Congo|
|tags:||Democratic Republic of Congo, innovation, technology, women|
In fact studies have shown that over 2500 deaths have been reported in the roads since 2007, with the numbers rising. Traffic snarl-ups haven’t helped either with the traffic police accused of blatant corruption that has fanned road mayhem.
But Congo’s case is a microcosm of a larger Sub Saharan African problem, which although has two per cent of the world’s automotive vehicles, it leads in the number of road fatalities which averages 27.8 deaths per 100,000 population compared to global average for middle income countries that stands at 20.1 per 100,000 people.
Congo, aware of the catastrophic impacts of road disorder, has embraced technology to correct the situation.
At major intersections in Kinshasa, towering aluminium robots stand and have been hailed for the smooth flow of traffic and protection of pedestrians. The eight foot tall robotic police weighing 250kgs are equipped with four high definition digital cameras set in their eyes and shoulders that record every activity in the roads and transmit the video live to a central police command.
They are also fitted with green and red signal lights on each hand to easily control traffic by raising their hand, and a rotating chest that allows them to record every road activity. With an integrated audio recording and broadcasting system the robots have also been designed to talk and sing by broadcasting in a synthetic voice. For example it is programmed to utter words like “drivers, you can leave the passage to pedestrians.” With electricity being a major problem in the country, the robots operate on solar power and are fitted with autonomous power supply and have been built to withstand the year round hot weather in the country.
Congolese and the world have hailed them for their dual role of acting as traffic police and traffic lights. They cost $27500 each.
In a country that has traditionally been blamed for runaway corruption in the police force, especially in the traffic department, where offenders can get away with anything, the robocops are being celebrating for taming corruption in a country that ranks 156 out of 176 countries in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2016.
The robots are the brainchild of Women's Technologies, Wotech, a Congolese institution working at promoting female engineers in the country and region. Thérèse Izay Kirongozo, the CEO of Wotech who has chaperoned the creation of the robot traffic police believes in innovation to solve some of the most pressing African problems.
Thaddeus Mwinzi from the African Union says that such innovation not only help solve some of the most biting African 21st century problems but are a panacea to the challenges Africa anticipates to face in the future. “This continent needs a futuristic approach to doing this and it cannot run from innovation. Thérèse’s innovation is timely and addresses one of the most pressing African problems that is set to become even bigger going forward: that of urbanization with even more people expected to move into urban areas,” he said.
Thaddeus however insists that such innovations should not be allowed to stand on their own if the continent is to find multifaceted solution to its problems. “We are talking about the resultant effects of urbanization for example. While tackling urban transport system is vital, how are we addressing the other pressing needs like housing and sanitation to build resilient cities? One cannot survive without the others,” he added.
Thérèse wants to scale this innovation insisting that the traffic problems affect the entire world. She hopes for the day when the ‘Made in Congo’ robot police will feature in New York streets. She is already set to export the robocops to Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Angola and other African countries that have expressed interest in the technology.
It is an innovation that has drawn inspiration across the world, especially coming from a country that has been synonymous with decades of civil war and human rights abuses.
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