An app for the  mobile court

An app for the mobile court

ROMA-WHEN a car comes towards a traffic checkpoint, this app focuses its cameras on the car’s number plates.
If the car owner has not paid a spot fine past the deadline, the app rings the alarm and the car is immediately pulled aside by traffic cops.

The owner then faces the fear-inspiring mobile court [Iveco].
The app, being developed by two National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub students, Boitumelo Ntilane and Thabo Khabele, achieves this by taking an image of every passing car’s number plates using cameras.
It then checks if the cars’ owner associated with the number plates has a spot fine and if it’s paid for.

All this happens in a second.
The app is also designed to make life a bit difficult for the bribe-crazy traffic cops while making spot fining easy.
But let’s put the app developers on the safe side.
Whether Iveco should be on the road or not is something they are too happy to leave for others to worry about.

However, if Iveco is on the road at all, they have a high-tech solution for it.
If they will get the law side of the Iveco, spot-fining and bribery wrong, forgive them [in advance].
They are computer enthusiasts, not lawyers.
That [lawful] disclaimer aside, let’s get to the story of the day.

Let’s suppose some crimes are bigger than others on the road, “our app is based on the supposition that Iveco will focus only on the bigger crimes, one of the biggest crimes being—not paying your spot fine after being slapped with one,” they said.
Maybe there is something there.

Otherwise, how can a motorist over-speeding by five km/hr face the same justice as the one who doesn’t have a driver’s licence?
That being the case, those who commit lesser crimes are given a spot fine and they go—unless they contest the fine at the Iveco.
They are expected to have paid the fine within seven days, beyond which they are now guilty of a bigger crime—not paying a spot fine.

Why is giving spot fines for smaller crimes important?
It reduces congestion around the fearsome Iveco which would otherwise be crowded up with traffic offenders and their many cars.
However, giving a spot fine is not easy as it sounds.
The first problem is the 20th century method in which it is given.
The second problem is the bribe-crazy traffic cops who are not in a hurry to give spot fines.

Let’s see how the app attacks the two problems.
The paper-based 20th century method of spot fining has no place in the 21st century.
“I was once slapped with a spot fine and I observed the following uncomfortable things in the process,” Ntilane said. First, “the police manually wrote on paper some details about me and the car, including my names, drivers’ licence number and the car model, and then gave me a ticket.”

“Then I was asked to go to Sub-Accountancy to pay my fine before seven days were over, which I did. I was later shocked to get a call from the Police Station. They were asking me to come to the Station to produce a receipt as a proof that I had, in fact, paid my spot fine.”
That was where things started getting a bit funny for a chap who is among the Born-After-Technology [BAT] generation [Ma 2000s].

“What if I had skipped the country or my phone was off, would I be considered a criminal? And the fact they were calling me, not the Sub-Accountancy, at which I paid, meant there was poor communication between the two government departments.”
So the app addresses this Born-Before-Technology (BBT) problem.
With it, the cops will just take out their mobile phones and drop all that information into the app.
It’s that simple.

When that happens, the offender’s details are received in two places immediately.
The first place is the Sub-Accountancy and the second place is the Police Station.
“When I pay, at the Sub-Accountancy, my status is immediately updated at the Police Station too and there is no need for them to pick a phone to follow me up,” he said.

More interesting, the information concerning who has paid or who has not paid is also automatically communicated to the IVECO-accompanying front-line camera at the traffic checkpoint.
This is where the camera can spot an incoming car which has not paid a spot fine past the deadline.
And then, the offender is now facing the fearsome Iveco while other happy lesser crime offenders zoom past the checkpoint.
Now how do you deal with the bribe-crazy traffic cops?
It’s a million-dollar question but this app will try.

That is because the same camera watching incoming car number plates is a two-headed beast with another camera keeping an eye on the police and their potential bribers.
Well, that won’t stop the bribe-taking crime but it won’t make it easy either.
Majority of those who give and take bribes are level-headed folks who don’t want to be “video-taped” in a bribery affair.

Own Correspondent

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