Public Service Delivery in a Municipal Information Society

Public Service Delivery in a Municipal Information Society

Udo Richard Averweg (eThekwini Municipality, South Africa & University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch459
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Introduction

During the last decade, there has been a significant growth in electronic Government (eGovernment) at local, national and international levels. While there is much hyperbole surrounding eGovernment, there has been considerable transformation in the ways government and the governed interact with one other (Worrall, 2012, p. i). The main challenge by local government is its ability to effectively insert the technology into its everyday performance. The South African Minister for Public Service and Administration, Lindiwe Sisulu, notes that “eGovernment is an essential component to improve service delivery for all,” build an inclusive information society (IS) and to integrate government information systems that provide optimised service delivery to government information and services (Sisulu, 2012). However, the interaction by and government and local government (such as eThekwini Municipality in South Africa) with its population may be constrained by information and communication technologies (ICT) because a significantly large population who exist outside the World Wide Web (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Web’), do not have access to ICT – paradoxically they are the ones most dependent on publically provided services from a local government which is responsible for providing services to its citizens in a defined geographical area.

The objectives of this article are twofold:

  • To discuss the importance of harnessing appropriate ICT for enabling service delivery in municipal areas in South Africa; and

  • To posit that from deploying appropriate ICT in a municipal area - for example, broadband services in the eThekwini Municipal Area (EMA), a Municipal Information Society (MIS) can emerge with a framework that will serve to facilitate service delivery and forms of engagement (e.g. communication) with households, the private sector and civil society.

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Background

Proponents of the linkage between ICT and service delivery tend to believe that they can utilise tools such as the Internet, the Web and Government) services to deal with local concerns. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) sees the use of ICT, and particularly the Internet, as a tool to achieve better government (OECD, 2003 p. 23) as community networks provide a range of information services for citizen neighbourhoods, citizens and rural areas (Schuler, 1996). While the use of ICT is not widely dispersed in South Africa, globally, governments are becoming involved in ICT initiatives by developing “public access computer networks” to improve service delivery and increase citizen participation (Guthrie & Dutton, 1992). ICT “must be regarded as a pre-requisite for economic and social development in South Africa” (Averweg & Erwin, 2011, p. 94). Sisulu (2012) suggests that “technology and services must be designed ... to reflect a new social consciousness and commitment to nation building and development.” In South Africa, the provision of broadband services, such as eGovernment for the benefit of local communities, is aimed at improving the quality of life in households. Governments aim to improve the services they provide to citizens and organisations by using the options offered by ICT (Aydinli, Brinkkemper & Ravesteyn, 2012 p. 104). ICTs have become critical to enriching citizen’s lives and providing citizen-centred services (Sisulu, 2012). When using such services, local government is responsible for the communication between households, the private sector and civil society in a secure way.

Key Terms in this Chapter

eGovernment: A tool to develop and deliver high quality, seamless and integrated public services; to enable effective constituent management; and to support the economic and social development goals of citizens, business and civil society.

eReadiness: May be defined in terms of availability of ICT infrastructure, the accessibility of information and communication technologies (ICT) to the general citizen and business organisation population and the effect of the legal and regulatory framework on ICT use.

Broadband Services: Internet access with a ‘decent’ speed for citizen household, public and private sector users.

Government 2.0: The use of information technology to socialise and commoditise government services, processes and data.

Batho Pele: The constitutionally mandated service delivery philosophy in South Africa.

Web 2.0: Refers to networked applications built using Web-based technologies and design principles that may exploit community-based development and social networking.

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