Municiple Information Society in South Africa

Municiple Information Society in South Africa

Udo Richard Averweg (eThekwini Municipality and University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
Copyright: © 2006 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-799-7.ch134
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Abstract

Information and knowledge are keys to development in the knowledge-based society. Information and communication technologies (ICT) are playing an increasingly important role in the daily lives of citizens, revolutionising work and leisure, and changing the rules of doing business. ICT encompass all technologies that facilitate the processing and transfer of information and communication services (United Nations, 2002). Mbigi (2000) indicated that interdependence and “networking are part of African cultural heritage” (p. 23). The African Networking Renaissance is about business organisations finding innovative ways of doing business by harnessing ICT, cultural strengths and inspiration to meet the challenges of its local delivery needs and global competition. In the realm of government, ICT applications are promising to enhance the delivery of public goods and services to citizens not only by improving the process and management of government but also by redefining the traditional concepts of citizenship and democracy (Pascual, 2003). Van der Waldt (2004) noted that the South African government makes provision for the use of information technology (IT) to deliver certain services electronically (electronic governance). Because there is a need for municipalities in South Africa to realise “the strength and importance of a virtual infrastructure framework, which includes…technology and innovation” (eThekwini Municipality Integrated Development Plan 2003-2007, 2003, p. 24), the concept of a municipal information society (MIS) is proposed. An MIS conceptual framework to facilitate public service delivery is this article’s objective. This article is challenging because it discusses a fundamental realignment of the manner in which information, knowledge, ICT, people, and business organisations need to network within a selected municipality in South Africa to meet the challenges of public service delivery. The ideal attributes of successful public service delivery in a developing democratic society were formulated by an authoritative study of public service reform in South Africa (PRC, 1998). Public services are supposed to improve the lives of citizens in the policy areas for which a public service organisation (such as a municipality) is legally responsible. According to this approach to service delivery, local governments can utilise Internet technology to improve quality (better services), efficiency (cost effectiveness) and effectiveness (economic development). Electronic service delivery (ESD) is a method of delivering services and conducting business with customers, suppliers, and stakeholders to achieve local government developmental goals of improved customer service and business efficiency in a sustainable manner. The capacity to deliver services in a sustainable way refers to “the ability to perform appropriate tasks effectively, efficiently and sustainably” (Grindle & Hildebrand, 1995, p. 445). There is no more important issue in South Africa than improving the delivery of public services (van der Waldt, 2004). eThekwini Municipality sees the e-government strategy (eThekwini Municipality Integrated Development Plan 2003-2007, 2003) and its Web site (http://www.durban.gov.za) as important management tools for improved citizen service delivery and communications to the business community in the eThekwini Municipality Area (EMA) in South Africa. The Web site is seen as “key to retaining constant communications” with its constituents (Corporate Policy Unit, 2004b, p. 64). Improving service delivery calls for a shift away from inward-looking bureaucratic systems and attitudes towards a search for new ways of working that puts the needs of the public first (van der Waldt, 2004). In African Networking Renaissance, there is thus a need for “how-to” knowledge and information on modernising existing service delivery in keeping with new, appropriate ways of serving the needs of South Africans. ICT represent a key enabler for improved service delivery to both its citizens and business organisations in the EMA. Cronjé, de Toit, Marais, and Motlatla (2004) noted that the crux of social responsibility is “the insistence of the community that business should in every respect be a ‘good corporate citizen’” (p.106). The focus of this article is on ICT, eThekwini Municipality, and business organisations in the EMA. Good governance assumes that public service delivery (including ESD) is the implementation of public policies aimed at providing concrete services to business organisations.

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