New tool will measure tech, innovation adoption at municipal level

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South African municipalities will, in future, be able to utilise a technology-based tool to inform them to upscale or take-up innovation in order to improve service delivery.

This comes as the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) is targeting a national roll out of the Municipal Innovation Maturity Index (MIMI), its tool to measure innovation in municipalities.

MIMI, officially unveiled last week, was developed and piloted through a DSI partnership with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

The tool benchmarks and assesses the science, technology and innovation readiness levels of municipalities, and determines maturity levels of innovation adoption, explains Dr Phil Mjwara, director-general (DG) at the DSI.

Additionally, it measures the capabilities of individual employees and municipalities to learn, implement, adopt and institutionalise innovations that can improve the delivery of services, he notes.

Mjwara explains the tool is in line with the country’s 2030 National Development Plan (NDP), which prioritises the introduction of innovation and technology to improve the capability of the state.

According to the DG, the DSI derived its plans for the MIMI tool from the NDP target. “A local government sector that performs well, supported by technology systems, data and innovation investments, will help improve governance, build confidence in citizenry, enhance the quality of basic services, reduce poverty and combat corruption.

“In line with the policy, intent of positioning government as an enabler is very important. We appointed SALGA, HSRC and UKZN to develop, pilot and roll out the MIMI in municipalities in order to encourage the adoption and uptake of innovation in municipalities.”

The DSI expects the national rollout of MIMI to enhance the capacity of municipalities to plan, integrate and embed innovation and technology in their daily operations, and create an enabling environment for innovation uptake in municipalities.

The target for the national rollout is to reach coverage of 50% of municipalities over the current medium-term strategic framework period (2019 to 2024).

Department of Science and Innovation director-general Dr Phil Mjwara.
Department of Science and Innovation director-general Dr Phil Mjwara.

Mjwara explains the tool was piloted by the project team, which recruited 24 municipalities, nine metros, nine district municipalities and six local municipalities to participate in the pilot.

A total of 68 municipalities were targeted to participate in the pilot implementation and testing of the MIMI; however, due to COVID-19 conditions, only some of the municipalities were able to participate.

Even though the participation rate did not meet the expected threshold, it provided valuable insights into the innovation processes within the participating municipalities, reveals the department.

The pilot’s report found more than half of the municipalities ranked at maturity level three, meaning that innovation is managed and officials optimise and evaluate solutions, improving on these for internal benefit.

Says Mjwara: “As the Department of Science and Innovation, we are working very hard to set up a governance structure within government, which will be an inter-ministerial committee of a number of government departments that we believe need to start taking innovation to improve their service delivery, to modernise their sectors, or to adopt new sources of code.”

Tshepang Mosiea, director of science and technology for sustainable human settlements at the DSI, says the tool was tested to establish if it was fit for purpose in real life. The department is now looking at how it can replicate and rollout the tool at a national scale, especially in municipalities, notes Mosiea.

“It is our belief that the tool provides a blueprint of more robust reporting to come in future about innovation practices in municipalities.

“Following the pilot, the department has planned a series of engagements with municipalities that participated in the pilot. It will undertake these as learning forums next month [August] just to provide them with feedback on innovation practices as they participated in the pilot. The MIMI partners will use such engagements to refine the tool, as well as strengthen the data collection mechanisms.

“As the Department of Science and Innovation, we are very excited about the pilot implementation,” adds Mosiea. “We firmly believe that it [MIMI] will provide an opportunity to support the country’s smart city agenda and other related initiatives in the country about smart cities. We hope there will be an increased participation of municipalities in the MIMI rollout.”

Mjwara calls on municipalities to partner with the DSI in the national roll out of the MIMI, encouraging their participation in the department’s programmes designed to support municipalities to scale up innovations that can deliver and improve basic service delivery.

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