Thu, 08 May 2003

`Parking attendants with PDAs to fail'

Zakki Hakim, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The new on-street parking system, which will make use of parking attendants armed with handheld computers, is likely to fail for any number of reasons, an expert said.

Zatni Arbi, a technology expert, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday the system would fail because it relied too much on humans.

He said the use of the computers would be too sophisticated for the parking attendants, not to mention "field risks" such as the possibility of the gadgets being dropped or stolen.

"The idea is not original anyway. Subways in Hong Kong and Singapore already use similar systems. The difference is that the data is transferred online in real time instead of manually, which means a minimum possibility of human intervention and embezzlement," he said.

The city administration plans to implement a new electronic on-street parking system starting May 26.

Parking attendants will be equipped with Handspring Visor- brand Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs). A handheld computer distributor said a fully loaded Visor Pro only cost US$199, and to download simple software only cost between $15 and $18.

Earlier reports said the PDAs for the new parking system would cost Rp 17.15 million each (US$1,990).

Arbi said there was no need to spend so much money on a program as simple as a parking system because there was probably off-the-shelf software that cost far less, considering that the idea was not new.

He also said it would be impossible for the operator, who has already invested $500,000, to reach the planned break-even point in five years because the Visor's built-in battery could only last three years.

"The operator will need to reinvest in three years," he said.

Azas Tigor Nainggolan of the Jakarta Residents Forum called the new parking project a waste of money.

He said the project was wrong from the start and that the City Council was reckless in approving it.

Before a new system is implemented the city administration should first investigate the past embezzlement of parking revenue and bring the perpetrators to justice, he said.

"The council and the governor should definitely cancel this project because it will not solve the primary problem, which is corruption," he said.

The city administration, in a joint operation with PT Adiwira Sembada, which will serve as the system's operator, is scheduled to launch a "cashless" parking system on May 26, in which motorists will use prepaid cards to pay parking fees.

Kunto Wibisono, spokesperson for the system's operator, said parking attendants would "swipe" the prepaid cards through a modified PDA and a printer, attached to the palm-sized computer, would then print out a receipt.

The transaction data, which will be stored in a memory card, will be downloaded to the PDA of an attendant team leader, who will then enter the cumulative data into a main database, he said.