The transport sector is of utmost importance for economic growth and the quality of life in Maghreb countries of Algeria, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia. It is widely acknowledged that innovations and targeted research activities are going to play a key role in fostering the global competitiveness of the transport sector.
In general, the transport sector in the Maghreb region faces several challenges. Innovations are required that improve the sector's cost efficiency and productivity, which will reduce the costs of public infrastructure projects. In terms of environmental challenges, national and international regulations aimed at reducing the transport sector’s emissions have created potential markets for green innovations. On the other hand, the increasing populations living in urban areas constitutes a challenge for transportation system organization and mobility management innovations.
Going forward, the design of transportation strategy/plans for the Maghreb region needs to consider potential future developments and challenges. Specifically, having a long-term perspective in the transport sector is crucial due to the implications of present decisions on future performance and the nature of the investments, such as transport infrastructure that require forward planning and making educated decisions on future requirements.
Towards a Solution
The establishment of a Digital Transport Observatory is a result of the collaboration and partnership between IsDB and CETMO and their commitment to upgrade the transport and logistics systems in the Maghreb Countries. This project was developed based on the analysis of the current transport context and the changes and innovations that the introduction of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) will bring to the sector.
The objective of the digitalization of Transport Observatory is to upgrade the capabilities of the Maghreb countries to keep up the pace of the technological disruptions of the transportation sector and to be able to adapt to the new realities in the field. This will be done through (i) filtering and analyzing information and trends in the field of transport digitalization; (ii) promoting business opportunities and benefits of transport digitalization and (iii) building a network of experts to facilitate the transfer of knowledge in the field.
Inclusive and efficient public transport systems, including more attractive and safer options for active mobility, namely walking and cycling, integrated land-use, and transport planning, can improve accessibility and contribute to environmental sustainability. Furthermore, digitization can promote sustainable urban mobility. For example, ICT systems for road and congestion pricing can influence travel behaviour and encourage the use of public transport, walking and cycling as opposed to car-dependence.
The observatory is an effective platform for the Maghreb countries to explore, understand, and exchange knowledge on the latest trends on transport digitalization. This platform supports knowledge transfer of cutting edge and innovative technologies that have to do with the digital transformation of the transport sector, which Maghreb countries could utilize collectively or individually in designing their transportation strategies.The observatory is an effective platform for the Maghreb countries to explore, understand, and exchange knowledge on the latest trends on transport digitalization. This platform supports knowledge transfer of cutting edge and innovative technologies that have to do with the digital transformation of the transport sector, which Maghreb countries could utilize collectively or individually in designing their transportation strategies.
Some of the contents that are being studied in the observatory are the automation of transport, maintenance digitalization, big data, and open data, connectivity and 5G, the internet of things, blockchain, intelligent stations, intelligent infrastructures, mobility, and transportation as a service, cybersecurity, augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, new training or the redesign of business models due to the digitalization. All the contents discussed by the observatory will pass a first filter, which will address the interest of these topics for the digitalization of transport, and a second filter, which will focus on how these innovations help the sustainable development of the sector. Sustainability will be studied from its environmental, social and financial aspects.
This initiative also has an international vocation and for this reason, it was also presented at the UN Committee on Internal Transport (ITC) in Geneva (United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)), as well as the group of experts from The Group of Transport Ministers for the Western Mediterranean (GTMO 5+5: Algeria, France, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Portugal, Spain and Tunisia). In addition to the regional nature of the project, this international involvement will support the achievement of SDG 17 through facilitating partnerships between national institutions, regional and international development partners, which is key to enhancing progress towards sustainable development.
The observatory is currently working on developing a number of activities throughout 2021, including organizing workshops and events to discuss different subjects under transport digitalization, in addition to an Annual Conference to announce the Observatory’s activities. Moreover, the observatory will generate a series of communication tools, newsletters, technical documents, workshops and publications, as well as a website.The Establishment of a Digitalization of Transport Observatory for the Maghreb Member Countries paves the way for developing countries (Maghreb Countries) to enter the era of industry 4.0 in the transportation sector. This initiative could be extended to cover other Arab or African countries. The initiative could be easily replicated, with the availability of knowledgeable implementable partners such as CETMO, in addition to the commitment of the participating countries.