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Govt eyes IOT to assist distressed municipalities

Read time 3min 30sec
Jeanette Morwane, acting deputy director-general of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.
Jeanette Morwane, acting deputy director-general of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.

Smart connected devices will be used to assist in operational challenges and to ease the financial distress of six municipalities across SA.

This was the word from Jeanette Morwane, acting deputy director-general of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT), speaking at the first public event of the newly-formed IOT Industry Council of SA.

In March this year, South African organisations came together to form an IOT industry representative body, bringing together local and global technology integrators, innovators and thinkers leading the evolution of the IOT in SA.

Morwane spoke about government’s plans in working with the IOT industry to develop policy that will accelerate the fourth industrial revolution in SA.

The DCDT has collaborated with the South African Local Government Association, IOT Industry Council of SA, the Development Bank of Southern Africa and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to identify IOT opportunities which are expected to benefit both local and national government, and make a significant contribution to smart city initiatives throughout SA, explained Morwane.

She said the six municipalities are based in Kwazulu-Natal, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.

“Some municipalities are still using traditional ways of conducting services and IOT will be utilised to draw data in real-time, which will be used in decision-making. In other aspects, we will also be using sensors at the core service delivery infrastructures, such as the water and waste infrastructures, where important decisions will be made around saving costs and increasing productivity.”

Referencing the National Treasury State of Local Government and Financial Management Report for 2016/17 released last year, Morwane said 17 district municipalities were identified as being in financial distress.

The report assesses the state of finances of 257 municipalities as part of Treasury’s commitment to transparency of public funds.

“It seems clear that municipalities continue to struggle to understand and action the critical concept that budgeting for surpluses is necessary to avoid cash and liquidity problems. Sustained effort is required to address these weak cash positions. National and provincial treasuries will continue to engage with municipalities on improving their cash flows during the mid-year budget and performance and annual budget benchmark engagements in January/February and April/May each year,” noted the report.

Some of the factors which contribute to the municipalities’ financial crisis, according to report, include a deterioration in revenue collection due to the impact of the economic slowdown and the rising rates and tariffs which affect household budgets; emergencies and disasters such as floods and drought; the cash flow time difference between paying for the increased cost of bulk electricity/water; and the collection of revenues from customers.

Morwane explained: “We need to take advantage of technologies such as IOT and artificial intelligence, which give us an opportunity to build cities and towns which have smart innovations such as smart mobility, smart housing, smart parking, and IOT plays a huge role in implementing all of these and more. We are still conceptualising around which specific smart solutions will be used for each municipality and once finalised, the use cases will be presented to the minister.”

The founding members of the IOT Industry Council are Internet Solutions, Nerospec IOT, Real Telematics Systems, Sqwidnet, Activate Group, Comsol Networks, CST Electronics, Dimension Data, Eseye, Macrocomm, Microsoft, MTN, Software AG and Vodacom.

Roger Hislop, executive head for IOT at Internet Solutions, and chairperson of the IOT Industry Council also addressed delegates: “IOT is a perfect combination of long distance, low power, low cost wireless networks to get device data to the Internet, and the limitlessly powerful logging, analytics and visualisation capabilities of the cloud.

“There are a host of South African companies that are right now building devices, integrating software systems and delivering phenomenal IOT solutions – and the IOT Industry Council is there to make the world know about it.”

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