Why SMRT’s Hackathon is Borderline Pointless
So, SMRT organised a commuter experience ‘Hackathon’ recently to, according to engineering group senior vice president Ng Bor Kiat, “get in direct contact with the commuters, to try and hear from them first-hand what are the issues they are facing today… so that we can be better assured that we don’t miss out any big ideas out there that we have not explored so far.”
Sorry for the sarcasm. Or maybe not.
See, here’s my problem: It’s hard for me to see how apps developed by these bright-eyes, enterprising students of NUS will help with improving the MRT travelling experience.
Think about it. The problem doesn’t lie with how SMRT’s services are being rendered. The problem lies with how they’re running their maintenance program.
These apps are all consumer oriented, not engineering oriented. These are not mechanical and electrical engineers creating apps to solve logistical problems SMRT and SBS are facing.
In other words, much like the practically useless MRT ‘Traffic Lights’ that only serve to point out the obvious to you, these apps are just band aids that don’t solve the problem at the fundamental problem. You’re trying to find ways to make the leafs of a tree green when the roots are being starved of water and nutrients.
Again, think about it. There were practically ZERO breakdowns for almost 20 YEARS..until shit started to hit the proverbial fan a few years back.
That by the way, was a compliment.
Clearly SMRT knew what they were doing. Some of you might argue that it’s a matter of age, though I beg to differ. These are heavy machines and equipment that carry hundreds of thousands of people around Singapore day in, day out. Such machinery are high maintenance so it’s not like it’s going to take decades of negligence for problems to start manifesting. Our MRT lines were practically problem free for 2 freaking decades and that is no mean feat… (Warning, what follows is speculation) That is, until, in my humble opinion anyway, the major shareholders started to pressure SMRT for more profits because, well, (warning, more conspiracy speculation!), Temasek Holding and GIC weren’t doing well with their portfolio.
I’ve no issue with cost cutting. It’s an important exercise that prevents waste and over-spending. As with most things, once you go to far the other way, you start compromising on things that shouldn’t be compromised on, like, say, replacement parts and personnel. Again, I don’t have the full details of course, but logic will tell you that they screwed something up. You don’t go from practically no problems in almost 20 years to problems popping up every other week.
So, yes, it’s great that they’re supporting our new generation of enterprising app developers, blah blah blah, but in this case, I’m not sure of it’s helping to solve the real problem at all.
Fix the actual problems and stop wasting time on stupid, superficial projects (mrt human traffic lights…like, wtf are we supposed to do with that information?).
And yay! I went through a rant without talking the fact that the new generation Singapore leaders screwed up and added to the problem by expecting all their immigrants to stay without a home and travel around without using public transport. (Disclaimer: I voted for the PAP and I still support the PAP, so I reserve the right to rant about their shenanigans)
Image stolen from mothership.sg