Technology saves the day at VID

By Emmanuel Kafe | 28 Apr 2019 at 10:51hrs
The first hurdle in becoming a licensed driver is to get the provisional driver's licence.

The examination involves taking a set of 25 questions, of which a prospective needs to pass at least 23 of these.

But this examination process has in the past been riddled with corruption such that some prospective licensed drivers needed only to turn up for the examination and not even bother getting any answers correct.

But all that is set to change as the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development is moving in tandem with the rest of the world in computerising the whole process of obtaining a provisional driver's licence.

The Eastlea depot of the Vehicle Inspection Department in Harare has already set in motion the computerisation system, which is expected to be rolled out countrywide in the near future.

Most learner drivers, desperate to land their hands on a provisional driver's licence, resorted to lining the pockets of the VID officials.

While these corrupt officials would leak the examination questions to prospective drivers, a higher payment would ensure that one simply turns up for the examination and not even bother answering any of the 25 questions correctly, with the examiner taking care of the pass rate.

Inadvertently, poorly qualified and untested drivers would be unleashed onto the country's highways, posing a danger not only to themselves, but to other road users as well. And then technology and innovation moved in!

Government, in line with its thrust of turning all of its agencies into e-governed centres, has digitalised the Vehicle Inspection Department, where all aspiring drivers writing provisional driver's licence tests are now examined with an online system that reduces interface with officials, cutting out cases of fraud and malpractice.

The electronic learner's licence system is a modern technique for provisional licence testing, which swaps pen and paper for a computer.

The depot manager for VID Eastlea, Mr Onesimo Bumhira, said they are excited with the system and are looking forward to rolling it out to all depots around the country.

"Proper theoretical knowledge of traffic regulations, road signs and vehicle control systems is a crucial component of safe driving, and an ignorant driver on the road poses a risk to themselves and to others. Foremost in our drive, is to use the system as a means of eliminating corruption at the very first stage of the licensing process," he said.

Learners are identified digitally through retina and thumb scanning as well as photography, when they arrive at the testing centre to book their test.

On the day of the test, these identities are used to verify the applicant.

Those who would have passed the eye test, will proceed to register for the examination online by providing their name, physical address and national identity number before the 15-minute 25-question examination

The test is no longer written manually, rather a computer with a touch screen generates questions in a graphic format, which the applicant answers merely by touching the correct image.

This user-friendly system marks as the examination progresses, and produces a result instantly at the end of the test.

"The candidate cannot pass the test without answering all the questions," explained Mr Bumhiro.

With the new method, each candidate will write a different set of questions from the next candidate during the same session and in the same exam room.

In addition, tests are randomised from a pool of 402 questions, which means that corrupt activities such as preparing answers in advance, because some officials would have gained access to the test books, would no longer be possible.

When the roll-out of the computerisation programmes to all depots in the country has been done, the examinations will be centrally and electronically administered at the VID head office in Harare, stripping VID officials at various depots of any influence on the outcome of the tests.

The electronic system carries extra benefits as it cuts out the need to buy exam and answer books, pens, pencils, erasers and marking stencils.

It also frees up officials to be able to deal with other arising needs at their depots.

On the previous system, which was easily tampered with, Mr Bumhiro noted: "You came here almost briefed and knowing the answers by heart. But now we have a computerised system with questions which are processed automatically, so the examiner or any other official will not be aware what the computer will generate as a question."

Hopes are high that the new system will not only eradicate fraud and corruption, but will result in a more skilled driver on Zimbabwean roads. Of the 608 candidates who have sat for the online test so far, 420 candidates have failed and only 188 applicants passed.

"The lower pass rate indicates that only competent candidates are getting through," added Mr Bumhiro.

Statistics show that about 60 percent of people who sit for provisional driver's licence tests fail, while about 70 percent fail the road tests to get the driver's licences.

In 2010, Government cancelled 199 driver's licences issued by the VID Chiredzi between January and June 2009 as part of measures to stamp out corruption.



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