COME TOGETHER: How to open new ITS frontiers through synergies

Many ITS markets have to contend with budget shrinkages. This shrinkage is compounded as continuing rapid urbanisation puts pressure on public sector funding. Budgets are often prioritized for social services such as housing, education and medical services. ITS South Africa CEO Dr Paul Vorster talks to Kevin Borras about the need to sustain recent advances in smart mobility and why ITS professionals have to innovate and look beyond the industry’s traditional benefits to be recognized for an equitable share of the limited funding available

The ITS industry is particularly adept at solving complex technical problems. However, it is perhaps fair to say that it is not quite as efficient at demonstrating ITS cost-benefits when it have to compete for funding with more publicly emotive sectors with more em political appeal.

“As an ITS Society we adopted a strategy of promoting industry growth by opening new frontiers through synergies within the broader transport community,” says Dr Paul Vorster, CEO of ITS South Africa. “It is counter-productive for the respective transport disciplines and respective associations to work within their silos.

“To focus our vision and supporting strategies, we embrace a commuter-centric view with a focus on door-to-door solutions and the contribution of ITS to deliver smart mobility solutions. Once you adopt the principles of mobility as a service, new frontiers open up to expand ITS solutions as part of addressing wider socio-economic challenges.”


Mindful that it is “walking the walk” and not “talking the talk” that moves you closer to your objectives, ITS South Africa has set tangible targets, with leveraging the synergies between ITS and Public Transport as a strategy.

“We recognised the multiple synergies in play and one of the first ‘new frontier’ initiatives was to enter into a working relationship with the UATP (the Africa Chapter of the International Public Transport Association) to co-host the biennial i-Transport & UATP Conference and Exhibition,” Vorster explains.

In the spirit of bridging across transport association silos, the ITS Africa Working Group was also invited as a co-host.

The ITS Africa Working Group currently consists of the ITS associations of Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa, with efforts under way to establish additional National ITS Associations on the Continent.

Under the banner of “Go Green – Go Smart” the joint ITSSA-UATP conference as a knowledge-sharing platform was aimed at encouraging a commuter-centric approach and promoting the strategic view of mobility as a service. The conference and exhibition was hosted in February 2017 in Sandton, the business district of Johannesburg, South Africa. It was well attend by local, regional and international delegates and exhibitors.

“The close working relationship was hugely successful,” beams Vorster. “On a tangible level it exposed key ITS players explicitly to the broader Public Transport solution requirements and in turn enabled the Public Transport players to identify ITS solutions to their challenges. On a conceptual level it represented important steps in enabling colleagues to bridge traditional silo walls. If we hope to progress towards better integrated transport networks, we simply have to start by talking to each other.”

Citing the principle that “the business of business is business” he told Thinking Highways that the i-Transport & UATP “Go Green – Go Smart” Conference brought together buyers and sellers: for the sellers it is a showcase for new products, systems and services; and for the buyers it encourages quality and price competition to counter budget shrinkages.

“Industry players often cite as a constraint the lack of political championing for ITS. This is closely linked to the challenges of competing for scarce resources,” he warns.

To counter this constraint in the local context, ITS South Africa and UATP succeeded in obtaining the support of the Premier of Gauteng Provincial Government, Mr David Makhura, to serve as conference patron.

“This sent a powerful message about the Government’s support for cross-silo cooperation to deliver not only mutual, but societal benefits.”


Gauteng is the smallest province in South Africa, accounting for only 1.5 per cent of the land area, but is responsible for a third of South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) and about 10 per cent of the total GDP of sub-Saharan Africa and about 7 per cent of total African GDP. Other political champions participating included the Ministry of Transport and various political and senior government officials from various African countries.

Taking an additional step in the new frontier initiative, the South African Ministry of Science & Technology also participated to focus attention on the R&D and technology innovation part of the ITS industry.

In terms of the next steps following on from the combined efforts to bridge association silos and strengthen the view of Mobility as a Service, Vorster says ITSSA and UATP has already “agreed to continue with the efforts at releasing synergy from their cooperation.”

The i-Transport & UATP Go Green – Go Smart Executive Committee (ExCo) has already met to plan the next Conference and Exhibition. It will take place on 10-12 October 2018 and will be hosted at the Gallagher Convention Centre, conveniently situated midway between Johannesburg and Pretoria.

“As chair of the ExCo, Jack van der Merwe, CEO of the Gautrain Management Agency, is a thought-leader and a champion for cooperation and for taking a holistic approach in solving problems,” Vorster says of the man who is also President of the UATP.

“Working hard to elevate the smart mobility conversation to a higher-order trajectory, a first step was to bridge the respective ‘transport-related silos’. A second step is to build bridges to cross the divides between transport planning, land-use planning and economic planning. This is essential for a commuter-centric view and to promote mobility as a service and to demonstrate the societal value of transport.”

To actively promote Mobility as a Service, the 2018 iteration of the Go Green – Go Smart conference will have as its theme Implementing and Managing Integrated and Sustainable Transport Systems by Aligning Transport, Land-use and Economic Planning.

“As transport professionals we strive towards a sustainable and integrated transport network,” insists Vorster. “This is a complex and multi-faceted undertaking and each year will see the bar raised to achieve more. As representative of our respective specialist transport associations, ITSSA with a mandate to promote ITS and the UATP to promote Public Transport, cooperation is a sine qua non.”


Using the Go Green – Go Smart Conference to encourage a strategic conversation, there will be a Plenary Session dedicated to issues of policy and strategy and a forum to engage with political champions for smart mobility. In addition to parallel streams for Public Transport and ITS, a third stream on Infrastructure and Funding will be added. This paves the way for greater involvement of other transport disciplines such as rail and roads. There is also a need for greater engagement with key players such as the civil engineering sector that develops key components such as BRT and railway stations and parking and access facilities, urban and land-use and economic planners.

The post-conference day will host Master Classes and technical visits.

The on-going technical innovations and new applications for products, systems and services attract many visitors to the exhibition. To better cater for visitors who are not conference delegates, a dedicated Trade Day will be introduced for the first time to showcase the event’s offerings to a wider audience.

Says Vorster: “As transport professionals we expect from transport authorities and operators to take an active role towards integrated transport. This demands that transport associations practice what we preach by taking a lead in what we expect of others.”


Dr Paul Vorster is CEO of ITS South Africa