Thinking out loud about the Railway smart gates/ticketing system

Image Credits — https://slrailwayforum.com/

Everybody out there losing their minds about a news states Railway ticketing project was awarded to a Chinese company while Sri Lanka has a proven track record of building quality software solutions with global recognition,

I have a different take on the whole situation. let's keep politics and corruption aside which may have played a part in the decision and think about an ideal world.

Even if we lived in an ideal world,

1. Has any of the leading companies in SL which have sufficient operational , the technical, and financial background to undertake such large scale project placed a bid for this?

as per my understanding, all the companies people took as examples are operating in limited domains and are highly specialized in their own domain. Therefore most of the time they do not deviate from the domain even though they may possess sufficient technical expertise. Also keep in mind, building and supporting software is only one part of this whole project. There is another part of installing and maintaining/ supporting hardware as well. So only way a leading company could have a bid for this project could be to have a joint venture with another company with hardware expertise. But form a business standpoint, all these companies already have better income sources to focus on rather than taking the added burden on a venture like that.

2. Has ICTA / SLASSCOM etc tried to get such a project developed or get local companies involved in the bidding process ??

continuing from the above question , Its clear that companies have little to no interest to undertake an added burden of a project out of their expertise. So there are two options remaining, first is to encourage investors to start a company and second is to the centralized body like ICTA to be involved to have wider multidisciplinary collaboration to gather relevant parties ( software, hardware , construction, communication, etc ) . did such an attempt or plan was in place? or at least an initiative taken to from such to avoid such incidents happening in the future ?

3. Forget about the Chinese, do we really have a benefit of spending time and effort on reinventing a ticketing system locally over implementing an existing system?

from an economical and operational standpoint implementing a tied and tested system does have significant advantages and usually can be done in a shorter time period. If correct contractual terms are in place , we can get an existing system implemented and invest time in developing solutions over its base functionality such as analytics, centralized monitoring etc which can be a good business opportunity for a local company to develop solutions that have market potential beyond this project.

In conclusion,

  • I see this project as a lost opportunity, but the blame should go in the way of ICT policymakers for their lack of vision rather than corrupt politicians because nobody even made an attempt to place a bid ( need verification )
  • We need to have a proper mechanism to encourage local vendors as well as properly evaluate solutions as part of the tender process to weigh in the cost and solution fit. the tender should be awarded to the party with the best solution fit and value proposition.
  • All solutions need to be bought under correct contract terms allowing future expansions and creating a platform to build secondary solutions on top of base infrastructure which will be more beneficial for the industry than building base solutions for a crowded market.
  • Having skills is one thing. But the project on this scale needs far more than that. You can be the world’s best mason but that doesn’t mean you can build a skyscraper without any support.
  • We need to get out of the mindset of building everything locally. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time. we need to focus more on using an existing wheel and improving it ( and even sell after value addition )

Read more on this topic in my previous post

Software Architect, Computer Science Researcher , Photographer and A curious guy willing to learn about anything