Outthink Urban Planning: IBM Research Scientists in Nairobi Tackle Traffic Challenges with Garbage Trucks

Kenya is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. But rapid growth brings challenges, and for Kenya, there are few challenges greater than traffic congestion and urban infrastructure planning.

In fact, an estimated $600,000 is lost every day as a result of congestion on the roads. Speed bumps and potholes not only make commuting a challenge, but hinder public services as well, particularly in the area of waste management. Only half of the waste produced in Nairobi each day is successfully collected by the city’s waste management trucks.

IBM research scientists realized they could tackle both problems by looking through a different lens: how waste management could improve traffic and overall city infrastructure planning. By fitting garbage trucks with mobile phone trackers that monitor their movement, scientists enabled fleet supervisors to monitor data on location, altitude and speed in real time. This meant they were aware of problems on the road as soon as drivers experienced them and could plan more efficient routes through better sections of road. As a result, garbage collected in Nairobi has increased from 800 to 1400 metric tonnes per day.


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It’s also a potential way to understand and maybe mitigate accidents, dangerous situations and minimize the amount that people have to think about the unpredictability of traffic in their everyday needs.

– Dr. Aisha Walcott-Bryant, Research Scientist, IBM Research – Africa

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