City of Joburg brings tech onboard its war on potholes

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The City of Johannesburg (COJ) officially unveiled its new smartphone app and WhatsApp-based chatbot to allow residents to log a call for all the potholes they come across.

The Pothole Patrol app uses geolocation tech to allow residents to report the exact location of a pothole for the attention of the COJ, says a statement.

Furthermore, residents can track other repairs of potholes across the city.

Executive mayor Mpho Moerane describes the launch of the app and WhatsApp bot as a milestone step towards the transformation of Johannesburg into a smart city.

“The app and WhatsApp bot being launched today [Tuesday, 12 October] mean any of the road users can easily and conveniently report potholes they come across in the city by inserting the specific location to ensure speedy repairs and also monitor work progress.”

The launch of the pothole reporting tools follows the COJ’s partnership with Dialdirect Insurance and Discovery Insure earlier this year, in an attempt to fast-track the ongoing war on potholes across the city.

Over 50 000 potholes have been repaired since the introduction of the Pothole Patrol partnership between the city and its partners, according to the statement.

The city notes the amount of repairs completed in just five months forms part of a joint effort by its entity the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA), using its environmentally-friendly asphalt plant in Selby, and private partners that used their own specialised equipment and additional asphalt sourced from a private supplier.

“We’ve made a considerable dent in solving the challenge of potholes on our roads and are pleased to take the partnership forward as we embark on the next phase, using the app and deepening our use of telematics to identify the areas most sorely requiring intervention by the Pothole Patrol,” says Discovery Insure CEO Anton Ossip.

“With the launch of the app and bot, we will no doubt make an even bigger difference,” states Ossip.

Anneli Retief, head of Dialdirect Insurance, adds: “The Pothole Patrol app is simple to use − it geolocates potholes and provides real-time progress on the potholes’ repair statuses. With the bot, users will also be able to report a pothole and view the status of the repair.”

Moerane hailed the progress made by the cross-sector partnership, describing it as a “great” example of a smart mobility initiative.

“The Pothole Patrol initiative is not only about speeding up the repairs of our city’s road infrastructure, but also to make our roads safer for all users, who include motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists, as well as pedestrians. In addition, the use of the app and bot will subsequently reduce traffic congestion in pothole-affected areas and aid seamless traffic flow.

“The Pothole Patrol collaboration is exactly the kind of partnership that Johannesburg needs more of in other municipal areas of service delivery, such as waste management, power supply, as well as infrastructure investment and development, among others. This way, we can easily build a better Johannesburg together,” he states.

Pothole reporting apps are not new to the COJ. In 2014, the JRA unveiled its Find & Fix app for reporting road problems such as potholes, faulty traffic lights, blocked storm water drains, and missing or damaged manhole covers. However, the app is no longer operational.

The city’s Pothole Patrol app is freely downloadable on iOS and Android, and users can use the WhatsApp bot by typing in the word 'Hi' to 084 768 4653 and following the prompts. 

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