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Digital solutions key to improving service delivery in South Africa – Altron Karabina

26th May 2023

By: Natasha Odendaal

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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Digital solutions can help South Africa improve service delivery and strengthen governance, says Altron Karabina senior specialist: key accounts manager Murunwa Mashamba.

Critical to the success of this, however, will be a close partnership between the public and private sectors to better understand, and ultimately adopt, a modern, digital-first approach for government.

“South Africans are no strangers to inefficiency from government, though many of these failings can be traced back to legacy, paper-driven processes that are not only a burden for those seeking government services but also for the State in terms of processing these requests,” she comments.

“Inefficiency in service delivery has a negative impact not only on increasingly frustrated citizens but also on government employees who often have to – perhaps unfairly – bear the brunt of these service delivery failures.”

She highlights the processing of RDP housing applications and Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) applications as examples, noting that many who applied for RDP houses years, or even decades, ago are still waiting, likely because of lost documentation, or those who have lost jobs and are looking for financial support through the UIF.

Physically having to go to various government departments to apply, and then to track the progress on the status of their applications manually, can be an expensive exercise for many.

It is these types of processes, Mashamba says, that are ripe for digitalisation, alleviating many challenges during applications and the submission of supporting documents and being able to monitor the progress of applications online.

“We are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the private sector has a crucial role in bringing this vision to reality, as they have the experience when it comes to understanding unique customer requirements – in this case government – as well as the challenges that are inherent in the digital transformation journey,” Mashamba comments.

“Despite the many challenges around effective service delivery, the South African government has shown an appetite for exploring ways in which to improve the current situation,” she continues, adding that, as responsible corporate citizens, the private sector wants the digital transformation of South Africa to be a success.

A partnership approach will help government understand that it is not simply about adopting technology for technology’s sake, but rather building digital solutions that are specific to addressing South Africa’s challenges and delivering innovation that matters.

“Ultimately, this is a cost- effective way of improving service delivery as well as the processes, procedures and governance within government departments and agencies, as well as enabling better communication between government and citizens,” she says.

With the proliferation of mobile devices and reduction in data costs, many South Africans have access to the Internet through their phones, which makes digitalisation an “ideal and cost- effective avenue” for engagement with citizens.

Digitalising many government processes will help public service workers improve their own efficiency and productivity, as they will not have to manually process requests and will be able to securely upload applications, with reference numbers linked to easily keep track of application processes.

“It also alleviates the pressure that comes from large volumes of people who visit government offices to simply check on the progress of their applications. They can easily use their mobile devices and follow up, regardless of where they are.”

In addition, the transition to the cloud also ensures improved security of information, as documents cannot get lost, damaged or stolen.

“Increased reliability of the cloud also means that South Africans will not be hearing ‘the system is offline’ as they often do now,” she adds.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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