Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
A guide for practitioners!

You are here

ITS Deployment Strategies


Authors Dr Khaled El-Araby (Ain Shams University, Cairo, Egypt); Case Studies  Jennie Martin (ITS United Kingdom)

There is no single definition of what constitutes a developing economy. The World Bank refers to geographical regions – and classifies countries according to gross national income:

  • low-income
  • lower-middle income
  • upper-middle income
  • high income

These terms do not imply that the economies in each group are at similar levels of development or that they face the same challenges to make best use of their road transport networks. (See Common Challenges)


The World Bank’s Development Indicators database provides a wealth of information on all 188 World Bank member countries – and another 26 economies with populations of over 30,000. The assignment of countries to the four income groupings – from low to high – is made on 1st July each year. 


The potential for improvements in transport infrastructure and road network operations – and the role of ITS – will vary from country to country, depending on geographical and climatic conditions, social and cultural factors, level of development of the road network and the extent of planned investment, and the mix of vehicle types competing for road space. It will also be determined by differences in the economic policies, income per head of population, and available human resources (technical, operational and management skills).

From an economic perspective the value of the transport network (and the need for further investment) can be judged by how well it connects and serves:

  • urban and rural centres of population
  • industrial and commercial locations
  • sites for mining, mineral extraction, oil fields,
  • areas of natural resources – such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries
  • transport nodes such as ports, airports, road and rail freight terminals
  • recreation, tourist venues and sport complexes

There is no single, common ITS deployment strategy appropriate to address the different needs of countries across the world – with economies in varying stages of development. Local, national and regional factors will determine whether ITS is an appropriate investment – as well as how it should be designed and deployed. For instance – even within a single country:

  • regional differences can be very large — for example, the State of São Paulo has a much higher income and vehicle ownership than the Brazilian national average
  • the rate of change in economic and transport development can vary considerably — for example, over the past 25 years, in the Czech Republic incomes have increased and there have been major improvements to the road network

Often in developing economies, development of infrastructure is a higher priority than traffic management to promote economic development and the movement of people and goods. Road network operations become essential when traffic levels increase to the point where they have negative impacts – such as congestion, accidents and vehicle overloading. The focus shifts towards making best use of available road capacity in all conditions, at all times. (See What is Road Network Operations)

Before embarking on ITS, countries need to have in place some basic traffic management measures – such as lane markings and designed junction layouts. It will help to learn from neighbouring countries’ experience of ITS to identify proven solutions.

Several common trends affect transport in developing economies which will have an impact on the scale of RNO activities and the scope for ITS deployment:

High level of road accidents

In many developing economies, road accidents are significantly higher in relation to traffic volumes, compared to high-income countries. For example, in 2002, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that 90% of all road traffic deaths occurred in low and middle-income countries – despite their share of world vehicle ownership being less than 50%. There are various contributory factors, including:
  • high numbers of vulnerable road users – such as pedestrians, cyclists, scooters and animal transport – sharing road space with motor vehicles
  • low level of traffic enforcement
  • the large proportion of heavy vehicles on the road network

Imbalanced transport mode utilisation

In many developing economies, passenger transport is provided as much by mini buses, taxis and auto-rickshaws – as it is by more conventional public transport modes, such as buses and rail. For example, in Egypt:
  • more than 55% of public transport trips in Cairo are carried by shared taxis and minibuses compared with the underground metro and public buses (40%)
  • trucks transport most freight flows – with little carried by rail, water or air

Institutional Weakness and Fragmentation

Many developing economies are characterised by weak and fragmented institutions for tackling urban and national transport problems. Development of ITS will be difficult without putting in place strong institutional coordination mechanisms to:
  • establish transport policies
  • resolve organisational issues
  • set investment priorities
  • identify funding resources for major transportation investments including ITS measures

Inadequate financial arrangements

Many developing countries have insufficient funds and are unable to access satisfactory financing arrangements resulting in lack of investment in transport facilities, poor cost recovery, and low levels of private sector investment in transport infrastructure and services. Governments in some countries also highly subsidise gasoline and diesel fuels which tends to encourage growth in car ownerships and personal transport at the expense of higher capacity collective transport – such as buses.

In any budgetary processes the value and urgency of ITS deployments have to be assessed alongside more conventional transport infrastructure projects. Decision-makers in many countries favour traditional transport infrastructure projects using public funds. They will often little experience or understanding of the potential role of ITS deployments – and the possibility of mobilising private financing.

Countries experiencing major changes impacting on the transport sector may be open to new concepts such as ITS in response to new challenges. For example, increased deployments of ITS on roads is often associated with road tolls and electronic payment. The World Bank reports that in many developing economies, electronic tolling systems have been implemented as a means of financing traditional transport infrastructure investments and ITS deployments – such as traffic management and traffic information. (See Financing and Procurement)

Availability of ICT Resources

Countries differ in their level of uptake of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) resources which impacts directly on deployment of ITS. Low cost telecommunications with wide geographical coverage for fast and reliable data transmission is a pre-requisite for ITS –forming part of its basic info-structure. (See Telecommunications and ITS Technologies) In some countries, such as Egypt, the ICT infrastructure needs to be significantly improved and expanded to accommodate large-scale ITS deployments. In contrast, in a high-growth, high-investment country, such as China, the level of ITS deployment is enabled by large investments in transport and ICT resources.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – the United Nations agency for information and communication technologies – maintains an ICT statistics website which compares ICT trends and deployments in various countries. The figure below provides an overview of ICT trends in terms of fixed (wired) and mobile broadband subscriptions and makes comparisons between China, Egypt, Germany and the USA.

Global Trends in penetration of Information and Communications Technologies (Source: International Telecommunications Union’s ICT-Eye Website)


The graphs show that developing and emerging economies have much high growth rates in ICT than high-income countries – in particular for mobile cellular and mobile broadband use.

Advice to practitioners

The World Bank has produced a series of Technical Notes providing advice on ITS deployments for developing economies (See Worldbank ITS Technical Notes). They cover:

  • an introduction to ITS and guidance on its applications
  • a two stage selection model for ITS applications
  • innovative approaches to the application of ITS
  • ITS Standards
  • system architecture
  • ITS applications around the world
Reference sources

World Health Organisation (2013). Global status report on road safety 2013. Country Profiles. World Health Organisation, 2013. Website:

Japanese International Cooperation Agency (2002). Transportation Master Plan and Feasibility Study of Greater Cairo Region in the Arab Republic of Egypt; Phase 1 Final Report, JICA.

Yokota T. (2004) ITS Technical Notes for Developing Countries, World Bank (,,contentMDK:20688447~menuPK:1157552~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:338661,00.html)