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Kagiso Trust bemoans lacking skills for ineffective tech use in local govt

By , Africa editor
South Africa , 02 Apr 2024
Kagiso Trust’s Paul Smith, local governance head.
Kagiso Trust’s Paul Smith, local governance head.

Many good tech systems are "used as scapegoats" for municipal government underperformance, but the real culprits are low levels of tech skills, institutional culture and lacking leadership.

This is according to Kagiso Trust, which says the inability of senior municipal staff to effectively use technology impedes local government's capacity to provide effective citizen service and facilitate revenue collection.

Kagiso Trust is a South African development agency that promotes education, socioeconomic development projects, and institutional capacity building.

In an interview with ITWeb Africa, Kagiso Trust’s Paul Smith, local governance head, and Zanele Mabaso, policy development head, stated that due to low skills, local governments lag far behind the private sector in customer management, support and revenue management.

Smith said: “The lack of data-driven decision-making is hampering municipal viability, service delivery and overall socio-economic development at community level. This can only be solved by making decisions that are based on data-supported empirical evidence.

“While introducing tech in the public sector one needs to simultaneously focus on institutional culture and leadership to ensure that tools provided are used for community centric activities and not just remain white elephants.

“ICT is just a tool, and the effective use of the tool is left to individuals, some who are motivated and community-centred, and others who are not interested,” he said.

“Many good systems are used as scapegoats for underperformance in municipalities. The real issue presently is the capability of senior staff to use technology effectively.”

To this end, Kagiso Trust recently partnered with tech non-profit organisation, Empire Partner Foundation, and hosted a hackathon intended to improve local government data management.

The Foundation works with young people on the continent to find tech solutions for societal challenges affecting their communities.

Mabaso said the joint hackathon was motivated by the need to “introduce a tech-centric product that will enable communities to access municipal services”.

“We must however also work on the ability of municipalities to adopt technology and to build transparency in their processes to improve accountability and service delivery to their communities,” she said.

Smith said: “South Africa has a tendency of addressing symptoms to challenges, and less of addressing the root cause of the issues to prevent its multiplication.

“This means that there lies a need for an intervention, like the hackathon, to address a generic problem through efforts of communal ideation.

“Communal ideation to addressing issues is essential as it allows for creativity in innovating solutions that solve for multiple issues, like job seeking, having agency in local development discussions and better access to the municipality to name a few.”

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