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SALGA joins forces with NGO to find municipal digital solutions

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Kutlwano Chaba, chief digital officer at SALGA.
Kutlwano Chaba, chief digital officer at SALGA.

The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) has partnered with tech non-profit organisation Empire Partner Foundation (EPF) in seeking digital solutions that can enhance service delivery in municipalities.

The two entities, supported by Tshepo 1 Million – a Gauteng government youth empowerment initiative – want developers to seek solutions that will expedite and streamline services at local government level.

SALGA says it aims to provide people with the best solutions for their daily needs, and technology is the catalyst in achieving this.

“Technology is important to economic development. More importantly, technology is the conduit to solve the country’s problems. There are various problems facing the country; there is hopelessness and technology can be used as an intervention tool – a conduit to solve problems the country is facing,” says Kutlwano Chaba, chief digital officer at SALGA.

Chaba believes that if digital solutions come from communities, it will help local authorities deal with high levels of unemployment.

“The biggest population in our country is the youth. We have a lot of tech innovators; youths that are studying technology; youths that are trying new solutions but they don’t have an outlet or an area to apply those solutions that they have. So using hackathons and partnering with foundations like EPF, we thought, as SALGA, it would be very important to work on a drive to bring youth solutions to local government problem statements. That’s how we can bridge that gap.”

A recent unemployment report released by Statistics SA shows there were 20.4 million young people aged 15 to 34 years. These young people accounted for 63.3% of the total number of unemployed persons. The unemployment rate within this group was 43.2% in the first quarter of 2020.

Khutso Ntsewa, regional coordinator of Tshepo 1 Million, also believes technology can be harnessed to fight high levels of unemployment.

“Youth unemployment is a sad reality because each year, a number of youths are unemployed. After finishing school, my take is that young people should have an initiative of doing things; we can’t constantly rely on government to provide jobs,” he says.

The organisations hosted their first hybrid in-person and virtual hackathon event over the past weekend.

“The hackathon was a great success over the weekend; we had in total 44 participants that were spread into eight teams and we had three teams that participated in our virtual hackathon,” says Mikhial Mariemuthu, manager at EPF.

“We were focusing on Youth Month, and the topic of the hackathon was to address the challenge of youth unemployment and to create digital solutions for local government procurement opportunities for the youth.”

The foundation seeks to bring together developers with scalable ideas to create new solutions using technology that impact social change and increase sustainability.

To date, EPF has worked with 281 young developers, hosted seven hackathons and has 12 lined up for the upcoming months.

The organisation has so far incubated eight winning teams, who designed solutions for water, SASSA grant payments, healthcare and education.

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