LGSETA | Nov 25, 2021

The viability of e-techniques towards service delivery in municipalities

The demands posed by the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and Covid-19 pandemic necessitated the introduction of e-services by municipalities globally. Just like globalisation, the 4IR needs to be accepted and coupled with a pragmatic shift in policies and structures of administration. In fact, research points to the potential benefits the 4IR has to offer, which include the strengthening of service delivery. The purpose of this article is to share some insights into the impact and use of e-service delivery in local government.

Research objectives

In 2020, the Local Government Sector Education and Training Authority (LGSETA) commissioned a study to determine the viability of e-techniques towards service delivery in the local government sector. As part of this project, the potential impact of e-service delivery in the local government sector was explored. The LGSETA also examined the challenges faced by the sector in the implementation of e-service delivery and the skills required for the effective implementation thereof in municipalities.

Research methodology

A structured questionnaire was used for this study and was broadly consulted with ICT specialists in the local government sector. For example, extensive meetings were held with ICT managers or corporate managers in various municipalities in both inland and coastal areas. Noting that out of the 100 questionnaires that were distributed only 17 were returned from municipalities in Mpumalanga, Limpopo and KZN provinces. There are several limitations linked to this study. These limitations include the following: First, the study is exploratory in nature and therefore the findings are indicative and cannot be generalised. Secondly, owing to the objectives of the study we were not able to interview all the beneficiaries of e-service delivery and therefore were unable to determine the perceptions of these stakeholders whether e-service delivery is effective. The beneficiaries of e-service delivery are citizens. They were not consulted due to time and cost constraints. Thirdly, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, most of the research respondents informed us that they preferred to receive the questionnaires by e-mail instead of a personal visit. This limited the scope for follow-up questions on the responses provided by interviewees.

Findings and analysis of the research

The findings and analysis of this study are identified and discussed in the paragraphs that follow.

Number of ICT personnel

 

Table 1: ICT Staff in Municipalities 

Characteristics

Mean

Standard deviation

Minimum

Maximum

Number of ICT personnel within the municipality

7

5

1

20

 

The above findings illustrate that the mean number of ICT personnel within municipalities was 7 with a standard deviation of 5, a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 20. This shows that municipalities are understaffed when it comes to the personnel responsible for ICT matters and therefore, they need to be capacitated with experienced and qualified people.

 

Relevant ICT policies and strategies

Table 2: ICT Data

Subject

Categories

Frequency

Percentage

Does your municipality have an ICT strategy or long term ICT strategy

Yes

16

94.1

No

1

5.9

Does your municipality have relevant ICT policies?

Yes

17

100

No

0

0

Does your municipality have proper network infrastructure (Local Area Network (LAN) & Wide Area Network (WAN)?

Yes

17

100

No

0

0

Does your municipality have a properly equipped server room?

 

Yes

15

88.2

No

2

11.8

Are your municipality applications and software licenses valid or up-to-date?

Yes

14

82.4

No

3

17.6

Does your municipality deploy security software or equipment to secure institution information?

Yes

16

94.1

No

1

5.9

Does your municipality have an audit finding on ICT?

Yes

8

47.1

No

9

52.9

Is your municipality using an enterprise solution e.g. Enterprise R P system?

Yes

8

47.1

No

9

52.9

Does your municipality have Business Continuity Plan (BCP) to recover critical information in the event of a disaster?

Yes

11

64.7

No

6

35.3

Do citizens get the necessary lessons from your municipality about how e-services work?

Yes

6

35.3

No

11

64.7

Does your municipality try to get feedback from citizens on whether e-services are working better?

Yes

7

41.2

No

10

58.8

Are e-services sustainable?

 

Yes

10

58.8

No

7

41.2

 

It can be observed from the above table that 94.1% of participants indicated that the municipality has an ICT strategy. The findings further reveal that all (100%) municipalities have relevant ICT policies. In addition, all (100%) municipalities have proper network infrastructure. Having an ICT policy is of particular importance as the ICT managers in municipalities have the responsibility to drive technological change. All municipalities should adapt to the demands posed by the 4IR as this is good for effective and efficient e-service delivery.

Audit findings on ICT

Most municipalities, 94.1% as depicted in Table 2 above, mentioned that they deploy security software or equipment to secure information. Moreover, while most of the respondents about 53% indicated that their municipality has no audit finding on ICT. Arguably, an ICT policy needs to be audited annually in order to keep up-to-date with the demands of community members and other stakeholders.

Sustainability of provision of e-services

On the question in Table 2: ”Are e-services sustainable?” the majority of municipalities 58.8% indicated “Yes” while 41.2% stated otherwise. It can be argued that the e-services can only be sustainable if the following measures are in place: (i) there need to be properly equipped server rooms available, (ii) up-to-date ICT strategy or policy, (iii) relevant resources (including ICT personnel, finances and proper ICT infrastructure), and (iv) frequent audits of ICT governance in municipalities.

Provision of municipal services online

Table 3 below shows that some municipalities have started offering various services online. This indicates the desire by some municipalities to adapt to the changing circumstances brought about by IR4 and Covid-19. Most of the municipalities surveyed indicated that they do not offer e-services yet the reason for this is unclear.

Table 3: Services offered by municipality online 

Subject

 

Which services is your municipality offering online?

Category

Frequency

Percentage

None

3

17.6

e-Billing, leave

1

5.9

Municipal online statement viewing, Pre-paid electricity purchases, SCM quotation submissions

1

5.9

Retrieval of billing statements and municipal accounts viewing, forms and other information of supply chain and more

1

5.9

e-Procurement, e-Recruitment, Fraud Alert, Ms Teams collaboration

2

11.8

Advertisement of tender, jobs and other legislative documents for compliance through website

1

5.9

Electricity and accounts

2

11.8

Financial System self-service

1

5.9

Website and tourism app

1

5.9

 

Services municipalities intend to provide online

Services which municipalities intend to offer online include job application (recruitment), e-community participation, public comments on integrated development planning and budgets, updates on current issues, self-service portal for consumers, services-information sharing, electricity and pre-paid water, and design of the website. Although municipalities have identified these services which they intend to develop online, it is the duty of their municipal council and therefore management to ensure that their municipalities are well prepared for a successful start to introducing e-services. Councillors can encourage members of the community to use the internet, for instance. Community development workers should visit and consult with indigent people who lack access to the internet.

Types of e-techniques used by municipalities

Most municipalities use various platforms or e-techniques to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in rendering services to community members. Virtual council meetings are commonly conducted by municipalities, which is essential to avoid the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. The other platforms used by municipalities to improve service delivery are Ms Team Collaboration; social media; virtual interviews; sending consumer accounts through SMSs, e-mails and WhatsApp.

Challenges confronting municipalities in providing e-services

The results revealed that most municipalities about 53% have no infrastructure challenges. Furthermore, 64.7% of municipalities indicated that they have challenges in information security, whereas 29.4% have challenges with resources (finance). Yet, 41.2% of municipalities responded that they have no challenges with ICT skills. An effective municipal information security policy and good supporting policies are two of the most crucial aspects of a good information security management system (ISMS). These policies should be directives that come from the municipal council.

Conclusions and recommendations

To ensure effective and efficient e-service delivery in local government, municipal officials should acquire technological skills. These skills will enable them to adapt to the current situation. From the above expositions, the following are the recommendations of the study:

  • Municipalities should provide lessons to community members on how they can access municipal services online. Various mass media can be used in this regard.
  • An ICT policy in municipal governance needs to be audited annually in order to keep up-to-date with the demands of community members and other stakeholders.
  • An effective municipal information security policy and good supporting policies, as two of the most crucial aspects of a good ISMS, should be developed and implemented by all municipalities.
  • Municipalities should be capacitated with experienced and qualified people for them to provide e-services effectively to community members.
  • Municipalities must budget for adequate resources, especially financial resources to ensure efficient e-service delivery.

 

This article is part of a series reporting on research commissioned by the Local Government Sector Education & Training Authority (LGSETA) (Contact: matodzir@lgseta.org.za)

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