Will digital service delivery improve your life in 2019?

A quarter of the way through 2016 and it’s clear that service delivery is set to be one of the main topics of conversation in political circles. In his State of the Nation address, President Jacob Zuma was careful to highlight the importance of delivering municipal services.

“Our Back to Basics local government revitalisation plan was launched in September 2014, and 2015 has been the year of intensive implementation. In this second phase of implementation, national government will engage in more active monitoring and accountability measures.”

In light of the upcoming municipal elections, it’s the perfect time to ask exactly how government can meet its service delivery goals through digital technologies. There are already a number of exciting connectivity initiatives in the works… Joburg’s Smart City initiative is bringing high-speed internet to the city of gold, and this is just one of a number of connectivity initiatives underway in major cities.

As government further explores mobile solutions and data analytics to enhance service delivery, dare we imagine how the successful adoption of IoT (Internet of Things) might change South Africa in the next few years?

To conceive such a future, I’ve stepped in my time machine (it’s right next to the cafeteria here at Accenture) and had a chat with my 2019 self. She comes from a time when government has fully embraced the possibilities of digital service delivery. Here’s what she had to say:

In what ways has digital service delivery changed South Africa?

Across the board. Take water and sanitation, something my colleague Lee Naik spoke about recently. Government has installed smart monitoring systems that can detect leaks, adjust pumping levels and predict when infrastructure needs repairing.

Electricity is in the same boat. Remember those ads on TV warning us about excessive use? They disappeared ever since government started implementing data-driven energy management programmes and smart meters.

Then there’s the impact on our transport sector. Telematics are standard for all public transport and most logistics companies, which means the roads are a lot clearer as drivers can seek out the least congested routes and avoid breakdowns.

Are people more satisfied with how things are running?

Absolutely. We’ve seen a big accountability push over the last few years thanks to e-government. The public sector has been able to deliver on its promises. E-government has offered greater transparency into municipal spending, procurement processes, tenders and more.

Citizens are also more easily able to engage with government, thanks to things like mobile apps, proactive digital notifications and easy to access USSD services. If something isn’t working – say potholes or broken streetlights – people can log it and get it fixed, no matter what mobile device they have.

What about disaster management? Have we managed to overcome problems like drought?

Natural disasters will never go away and water scarcity is something we’re still living with. Thankfully, predictive maintenance has been critical in avoiding faults that could lead to disasters like fires and chemical spills.

Government is also able to better anticipate natural disasters and put in place relief measures. Whether it’s smart farming or better communication in emergency relief efforts, mobile technologies have revolutionised disaster management.

How was government able to achieve all of this?

By aggressively embracing digital delivery service platforms like IoT. Once it saw the overwhelming opportunities for IoT, government was quick to embark on a national digital strategy. The successful digitisation of SARS proved to be a roadmap for the implementation of new technologies in other areas.

Prioritising smart city initiatives and building a reliable IoT network allowed South Africa to propel its digital transformation forward. The result has been a country that uses the data to make great decisions.



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