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Private Sector Development

Logistics: a Critical Nexus Point for Inclusive Growth

Marc Juhel's picture
As I get ready to head back to Washington DC after a visit to The Netherlands, I don’t want to miss the opportunity to share with you some thoughts on sustainable logistics.

While some of you might be familiar with the term, transport logistics refers to the services, knowledge and infrastructure that allow for the free movement of goods and people. 

In today’s globalized economies, logistics is recognized as a key driver of competitiveness and economic development. And as policy making turns its attention to promoting sustainable growth paths, valuing scarce resources, and minimizing environmental impacts, sustainable logistics is indeed a key nexus point.

Efficient logistics systems are a precondition for regions, countries, cities and businesses to participate in the global economy, boost growth, and improve the living conditions of millions of people.

That’s why this topic is so important for the World Bank’s mission and our client countries in the transport sector. And that’s why this week in The Hague we organized, together with the government of The Netherlands and partners like Dinalog, the Dutch Institute for Advanced Logistics, our first Conference on Sustainable Logistics.

The 10-Cent GPS

Holly Krambeck's picture

We know that technology is not a panacea, that gadgetry and software are not always the right solutions for our transport problems. But how do we know – really know -- when technology is truly the wrong way to go – when, say, using an old-fashioned compass is genuinely better than a GPS?

Thanks to blogger Sebastiao Ferreira, writing for MIT’s CoLab Radio, I have learned about an intriguing phenomenon in Lima, where entrepreneur data collectors, named dateros, stand with clipboards along frequented informal microbus routes, collecting data on headways, passenger counts, and vehicle occupancy levels. The microbus drivers pay dateros about 10-cents per instant update, and they use the information to adjust their driving speed.  For example, if there is a full bus only a minute ahead of the driver’s vehicle, the driver will slow down, hoping to collect more passengers further down the route. In informal transit systems, where drivers’ incomes are directly tied to passenger counts, paying dateros is a good investment (Photo from MIT CoLab Radio).

If you think about it, use of dateros could be more efficient than traditional schedule or GPS-based dispatch, because the headways are dynamically and continuously updated to optimize the number of passengers transported at any given time of day.  According to Jeff Warren (a DIY cartography pioneer), the dateros have been praised as the “natural database, an ‘informal bank’ of transportation optimization data.”

Does this little-known practice call into question our traditional prescription for high-tech solutions to bus dispatch?