Marketing Strategies for E-Government and E-Agriculture Services in South Africa: The Case of Cape Gateway Project

Marketing Strategies for E-Government and E-Agriculture Services in South Africa: The Case of Cape Gateway Project

Blessing Maumbe (Bindura University of Science Education, Zimbabwe) and V. Owei (Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Republic of South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2655-3.ch008
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The government of South Africa (GSA) has embarked on a major program for e-service delivery. The Batho Pele Gateway Project is the access portal to government information and a key driver of the e-government transformation in South Africa. Although the GSA is determined to make e-government service delivery successful, the average citizen does not fully comprehend the key transformations driving government engagement with civil society and businesses. Therefore, the Cape Gateway Project (CGP) is confronted with the immense task to develop and implement a strategic marketing program for e-government by the Provincial Government of the Western Cape (PGWC) which is not only a portal, but also a call centre and walk-in centre. Various marketing tactics have been deployed, but their efficacy in elevating awareness levels and converting that to actual sustained use of e-government service delivery remains unknown. This chapter proposes an e-government marketing framework and uses CGP experience to examine communication and branding strategies for e-government in a South African context. Key challenges facing e-government market communication strategy are highlighted.
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1.0 Introduction

South Africa (SA) has embraced e-government and is rapidly transforming the delivery of government information and services at all three levels of government (i.e. national, provincial and municipal). In the Western Cape Province (WCP), Cape Gateway Project (CGP) is the key driver of the e-government revolution. A number of challenges arise in executing this mandate: (1) how to equitable deliver e-government services to a diverse population comprising three racial and linguistic cultures (i.e. Afrikaans, English and Xhosa) (2) how to respond to service needs without exacerbating the existing digital divide. Given that SA is a dualistic economy characterised by a modern capitalist economy co-existing alongside low income, underserved poor communities, the ability to equitably deliver state of the art e-government information and services is a major concern for the marketing unit at the CGP.

First, e-government and hence e-agriculture service delivery is a relatively new concept and for the ordinary SA citizen, conceptualizing the idea and optimizing e-government usage will take some time. Secondly, not all key public officials have the computer skills needed to effectively design and implement e-government processes. Thirdly, e-government technology is evolving and there is need for continuous learning. As civil society, businesses and other stakeholders anxiously await the widespread implementation of e-government when exactly the benefits will be realized and how these will be distributed requires a dedicated marketing effort from policy makers. The aforementioned challenges are not specific and unique to SA alone, but confront any government intending to provide e-government services.

Without doubt, CGP faces the challenge to design marketing strategies that will effectively promote citizen-centric e-government services targeting the urban and rural population in the WCP. The question of effective e-service delivery can be answered through a systematic evaluation of the performance of three channels (i.e. Walk in Centre, Call Centre and Web Portal) and how they respond to citizen service needs and aspirations. If performance is sub-optimum, the next question becomes: What alternative strategies if any, should be considered to ensure successful implementation of e-government services in both the urban and rural settings?

This paper focuses on e-government marketing initiatives being used to raise awareness levels of citizens. In this paper, e-agriculture services are considered an integral part of e-government service delivery. We present a theoretical framework for e-government service delivery and adapt that to assess the marketing of e-government services through the CGP. In addition, using CGP as an illustration, we discuss the e-government branding and highlight the uniqueness of public sector marketing. E-government practitioners at CGP have been grappling with these issues and have attempted to develop a brand that captures user needs and expectations. The CGP is keen to ascertain the effectiveness of its marketing and advertising strategies and would like to use that as a basis to justify future budgetary resource allocations and convince pessimists with negative views about advertising online public services.

Despite some of the promising starts to e-government implementation, failure to conceptualize the context and link the new initiative to the overall development agenda could result in further divides (Hanna, 2003). Crafting e-government that does not leave behind certain segments of the population is bound to yield greater success than “ad hoc and passive postures (Hanna, 2003). To avoid such failures, the CGP needs to adopt a systematic approach that is driven by a robust marketing strategy to bring all the citizens on-line. Once a systematic e-government service delivery approach has been developed, it can be used as a benchmark for deploying similar e-government initiatives in other provinces or even countries on the African continent. But, it is just on this point that there appears to be a breakdown. While the various governments may have adopted different approaches, a search of the literature does not seem to indicate the existence of a universal approach. It is this absence that motivates our study.

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