Are you tired of experiencing traffic on your way to work and back home each and every day? Have you ever wondered if traffic is going to be a part of your day to day life for years to come? Do you ever wish there was some way to know which routes are congested and which roads are not, before setting out of your house? The solution for that has been initiated by road.lk. This study takes a look at what this service offers, how it works, and the overall social media usage of road.lk.
Road.lk is a Sri Lankan internet-oriented service that provides real time traffic updates for Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. According to Raditha Dissanayake, the creator of road.lk, the service offers alerts about unusual traffic build-ups, road closures, traffic-filled areas as well as congestion-free roads and alternative routes. The service was begun in the latter half of 2012 with the aim of making Colombo and its suburbs easier for travelling.
The service has so far expanded its alerts for the whole island and its Bangladesh account is in full operation, in addition to also providing several updates for other parts of the world. A feature of road.lk is that all the data is crowdsourced – followers pass on the traffic details to the service which is later shared. This attribute allows the service to offer first hand, real-time alerts to its users, enabling it to be rather reliable and trustworthy.
The main social media channel being used by road.lk is Twitter. The Sri Lankan account has gathered over 2,100 followers and posts around 50 tweets on an average week day. Follower tweets about high or low traffic situations and road updates are retweeted, along with the specific road details, direction and traffic level.
The tweets from users is the main source of data which Raditha and the road.lk team feed to the website system, while users also have the opportunity to post traffic alerts directly to the website. It is also noteworthy that more users resort to Twitter to learn about the traffic situations, rather than through the website. The account also posts various photographs on occasion, all relating to traffic situations or road incidents.
The fan interaction for this account is at a high level, with direct conversations with its followers. The account replies to fan queries and also gathers information through user interaction. The Bangladesh page follows a similar approach with regard to the content and fan interaction. The account has almost 100 followers and is updated several times a day.
The Facebook page of road.lk is another highly active social media page which is updated daily. The account is updated with photographs, illustrations and news articles, that attract high amounts of Likes and comments from the fans. The user interaction for these posts is also highly evident, with road.lk taking the effort to acknowledge fan comments. Some of the photos showcase the mistakes and bad habits of Sri Lankan drivers, encouraging the followers to be more responsible and mindful when operating a vehicle.
The page has gathered almost 30,000 Likes after being launched in September 2012. In order to avoid being spammy, no traffic updates are provided through Facebook. Instead, the page is mainly used for announcements, surveys and trivia.
Road.lk also has an Instagram account that uploads and shares photographs related to the traffic situations. Users are invited to share traffic alerts in the form of photos, which could be considered as a modernized way of data collection. The account has just around 100 followers so far, probably due to Instagram being a relatively new channel among Sri Lankan social media users.
This study shows us a clear example of how social media can be used in a purposeful and productive manner. Raditha Dissanayake states that 90% of the data for the project is sourced by the crowd through social media and is delivered through social media, showcasing how much of an important role social media can play in the day to day lives of people. Some of the users have confirmed that they refer to road.lk updates each day, before setting out for a journey, further emphasizing the effectiveness of this service.
It is encouraging signs for the social media industry in Sri Lanka to see such services being set up and maintained, all for the benefit of the people and society. It also suggests that social media is going to play a huge role in the lives of people in the years to come, if not already. Using social media to make life more productive and efficient should also be applauded and other institutions should follow road.lk’s example and embrace social media for their core activities and services.