Category Archives: Colombo

#lka Social Innovation ideas for the Sri Lankan Government Service – Part 1

One of the new trends in Sri Lanka is for many politicians to talk about innovation economy. I always wondered whether they know what they are talking about. Anyway, I still am glad that even not knowing the full context, these two words are being discussed. Innovation economy is a concept where entrepreneurship and innovation are given prominence. In my opinion the Sinhala translation of the word innovation “නවෝත්පාදනය” may not capture the full concept of the word but since I am not an expert of languages, I will stay out of commenting on it any further.

I recently with my team looked at few concepts of innovation. Though they have been doing this for little over two years now, looking back at these concepts helped me to think about these concepts in a different point of view. One of the main concepts of innovation is to think from the customer’s point of view. In other words empathizing with customers. To state simply this is to understand a problem from the people who are facing it and devising solutions for those problems. The word customer has a broader meaning in this case. It is anyone, one is dealing with for example, your boss, your employee, you parents, teachers, friends, etc.

The first idea of this post occurred in my head on the 3rd of April when my Peradeniya University batch mates had a get together. Many of my batch mates specially females are now teaching in schools in Kandy area. When talking to them few of them mentioned a well known issue of closing the road next to the Dalada Maligawa and how it has affected their travelling and travelling time to their respective schools. That same day while driving back to Colombo, I was thinking about this problem. Road closing or opening is a decision of some government agency (regional/national). This agency (I assume attached to either the Ministry of Highways or the Ministry of Internal Transportation) decided to keep the road closed. Let’s leave out the reason for a moment. The customers of this government agency would be the people like my batch mates who has to use that road. Roads might also have safety and environmental issues related to it too. In such a situation those relevant agencies should look at from their customers point of views too. For a person who only read the related issues on news papers (very little is written anyway about this), it seems like this agency is only looking at this problem from the point of view of politicians and religious leaders.

I have been at the receiving end of few fines for minor rules violations while driving. I am not complaining about the tickets but as a customer  who would like to pay the fines on time, the hassle one has to go through for paying fines is something I could not agree to. First you have to go to the Police station to pick up one form, then have to go to the post office to pay for it, then bring the receipt back to the police station to pick up the driving licence. Sometimes to pay a LKR 500 ticket, one has to lose few hours of work and spend nearly LKR 300 of additional money of tuk tuks. Overall economics of paying the fine does not make any sense. As the postal mail is a dying business in the 21st century, coming up with an internet based payment system for all the government related payments happening through post office might help saving the postal service a little bit longer. Additionally, the necessary changes to the law should also accompany, so that the policemen do not have to keep the driving licences. The unpaid fines with interest could be linked to the revenue licence renewal at the end of the year. This will lead to higher collection of fines, less wasting of time of everyone involved, less bribing of Police officers and actually catching the culprits who break the law. In this case all the government agencies and law makers should focus more on their customers (we the general public) but less on balancing each other.

There are many other ideas, will keep on writing if time and life permit. For the moment this will be stopped here as this note is getting too long and boring to read.

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Filed under Colombo, Future, Government Service, Industries of Sri Lanka, Innovation, My experiences, Politics, Science, Science in Sri Lanka, Society, Sri Lanka

Traffic (Colombo, Sri Lanka) – Part 1

I drive and I like driving. It helps me to think, debate with myself, think of new things and driving calm me down. At least it used to. Not anymore. I am not boasting. I drive a Honda Insight; a hybrid car. It tells me my fuel efficiency as I drive. Once I drove from Kadawatha, Sri Lanka to Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka back and forth with one tankful of gasoline. Nearly 700 km. When there is no traffic I can drive to work in 25 minutes and my car does about 22 km per liter of gasoline. With traffic sometimes I have taken 1 hour 40 minutes and 7 km per liter. I only realized this because my car shows those numbers. I will point out (in my opinion) why there is so many traffic jams in Sri Lanka, in this part 1.

I think a lot about how the traffic flow work. I wonder how Physics, Mathematics, Engineering, materials science, chemistry and psychology works during driving. Even for the people who are not well versed with mathematics, their brain will do so many relative speed (velocity) calculations before changing a lane, accelerate or decelerate. Those motor cyclists, do many more like that as they are a dot compared many vehicles in a road. Engineering, Materials Science, Physics and Chemistry, runs the car but psychology actually drives it. Do these three wheeler with the driver’s children’s name on the back of the vehicle, really think about them and the family when they drive like this; my mind wonders. Do these motor cycles with parents and 3 kids riding on them be allowed to endanger their kids like this?

In my opinion many factors contributes to the traffic jams in Sri Lanka. In no particular order they are;

1. Road Condition. Although many roads are being built and resurfaced, there are still many more not good enough to drive smoothly
2. Motor Cycles – not adhering to any road rules. Creating their own lane, riding on the wrong side of the road. All these lead to breaking and slowing down of all the big vehicles. Each of the small delays adds up to a big delay. Most of the time they go to the front of the traffic at a light but they don’t have pick up to drive away fast. This makes few larger vehicles to miss the light and jam to get longer.
3. Three Wheeler – Most of the above comments
4. Smaller cars – Most of the above comments
5. General disregard of the rules – Lots of people use politicians as an example. I agree but just because one does something wrong, we all should not follow it. Do any of the drivers know that there are traffic lanes?
6. Slow drivers on the right most lane – self explanatory
7. Oversize vehicles on narrow roads – self explanatory
8. Bad drivers – self explanatory
9. Leaner drivers – most of the time they come to road in the rush hour
10. Attitude – Even when one driver does something wrong, they talk and act like the other driver is at fault. Most of the people think they can win with words though they are at fault. People say if you can drive in Sri Lanka, you can drive anywhere – that is the dumbest, stupidest thing I have ever heard. Just because one act like an idiot, they will not learn anything.
11. Problem with the Police – there are not enough men on the road. They use archaic methods to issue a fine, which simply takes too much time. Payment of the fine add on to further loss of productivity in the country. They ignore certain offenses thinking they are minor. Generally there is no implementation of the road rules.
12.Pedestrians – sometimes this is related to the road (side walk) conditions. Sometime they cross the road as and when they want. Sometimes they just walk in the middle of the road. Sometimes they intentionally block the road on protests and on other situation like building structures for functions.
13. Politicians – mainly not caring and not setting an example to the public. Not doing anything to solve the problem
14. Technology – distracted drivers, non-functioning traffic lights, etc.

Next time I will try to write something about solutions I wonder about while driving. In the meantime we could do our part. To save fuel, to save the environment, to increase the productivity, to decrease the stress and related illnesses, to be better citizens of humanity, be considerate while driving.

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Filed under Colombo, My experiences, Politics, Society, Sri Lanka, Sri Lankan Police, Traffic