by Lumai Mubanga
May countries have installed turnpikes along public and private roads to control access and charge fees for road maintenance purposes. However, in some developing lands where these systems are currently being introduced, challenges arise due to misappropriation and misuse of funds. Generally, the following challenges are common across nations.
In most cases, an appointed road agency collects funds on behalf of the government. The government, through its machinery, decides how this money is distributed depending on its priorities. For example, cash strapped governments begin to misplace these funds to finance other non-road related projects. For instance, some government have been reported to use these funds for political campaigns, personal projects and in some cases, the cash disappears in thin air. Many roads remain in bad shape and unattended to for many years despite road users religiously paying their toll fees. How can blockchain decentralize and streamline the use of these funds in a transparent manner?
Local turnpikes and local road maintenance
It is a well-known fact that the centralization of collected toll fees does not benefit all road networks. For example, one tollgate situated in the northern part of the country may collect more funds compared to a turnpike situated in the central part of the same country. However, due to human influence, the roads in the northern part where more is collected may remain unattended to for long while those in the central part may get more than their share. It could be that the local governor is more influential, or that the central part is closer to the capital city. As such, it becomes more developed than the northern region in terms of road infrastructure. This unbalanced use of funds is not acceptable.
The solution – decentralization
The solution in both cases is to decentralize the collection and dispensing of funds to rightful localized areas in need. Besides, the system needs to be transparent and automated to avoid human interference. That is what blockchain smart contracts are able to accomplish.
To start with, each local turnpike will be configured to codes linked to specific local road networks. When there is a fault on one of those roads, smart contracts will be triggered to release funds from the central bank. This will be wired straight to the bank account of a selected road maintenance company. Smart contracts will spell out alternative nearby roads that can be maintained only if the immediate roads are all serviced. Thus, surplus funds from the local regions will only be used in another region if all roads and emergency works in that area have been sorted out.
The same formula will apply for high ways. Fees collected along high ways will be used along a specified stretch along that road. This would include new construction and bridge repair along the same highways. Any surplus can then be used in other road repair and maintenance works.
If smart contracts replace human interference in the dispersion of cash, many road networks will improve and help save lives.