SA start-up in ambitious drive to digitise SADC municipalities
Johannesburg-based Word Is Bond (WIB) Group plans to digitise local governments in Southern Africa, in an initiative that it says will improve municipal efficiency in delivering services.
The tech firm, whose objective is to digitise the public sector in SA first, is now looking beyond borders, targeting additional countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
It is developing tech solutions to solve problems in the healthcare, public transport and security sectors.
The group is working with local government in Gauteng and public sector entities in Botswana, and is also helping to drive e-commerce into townships, in a move it says will bring the under-privileged communities into the digital economy.
In Gauteng, WIB Group is working with the Department of Health to digitise patient records. It has also partnered with the Social Housing Regulatory Authority to assist with an electronic tenant on-boarding system. It is also providing internet of things solutions to municipalities for waste water treatment.
In neighbouring Botswana, it is working on digitising financial management systems and revenue collection for power utilities.
The group now says it plans to scale up operations in the region at an accelerated pace.
“Africa is a growth region in many aspects. We want to start in our region, SADC. Our projects are now taking off and we have countries like Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Malawi on our radar,” says Thandile Fikeni, WIB Group CEO.
“Beyond the region, West Africa has pockets of opportunities that we want to explore, especially in Ivory Coast. We want to create an all-African ecosystem that can change the lives of our people, help our governments function better and deliver the best services for the majority.
“The reason we are focusing on digitising the public sector is not only for easy access to data or extraction of it, because anyone one can do that. What is important is the way in which you utilise that data to solve legacy, current and future issues. Our approach to digitising goes through four components of data science, namely: data strategy, data engineering, data analysis and models, as well as data visualisation and operationalisation.
“Digitalisation in the public sector is not the future anymore; it is today and even though it is an ambitious goal, data provides a clear answer and guidance to which direction the public sector should be moving. Latest global events like the COVID-19 pandemic especially emphasised the importance and need for this.”
Dealing with inadequacies
Fikeni continues: “At a high level, we are trying to improve processes, remove inefficiencies and ultimately improve the performance of the people doing the work, thus resulting in satisfied customers and elated citizens. Of the many steps we have taken in this pursuit, one is understanding the pressing need for fourth industrial revolution skills and development.”
WIB Group says it has already developed solutions that are on the market and are assisting communities, including healthcare solutions, and track and trace for safety solutions.
The firm’s desire to expand on the continent comes as many governments in the region agonise over services delivery challenges and are leaning on technology to ease the burden.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, many government entities are in search of tech solutions to resolve service delivery concerns, and WIB Group says it wants to be the catalyst that will help these entities.
“Our solutions have benefited society, from national government to local government. The best ideas are usually born from solving challenges one has experienced, or solving community problems,” comments Fikeni.
“As South Africans, we acknowledge the various challenges that exist in our country, and with the use of technology and our expertise, we felt there is no reason the gaps or voids in our society cannot be plugged. Just because we are a Third World country does not mean we can’t come up with First World technology solutions.”
Founded in 2015, WIB Group has partnered with other start-ups, which the company believes have the solutions and capability to help deliver public sector solutions in the region.
“We have partnered and worked with the WIB Group on a number of public sector digital, innovation projects,” says Joanna Govender, CEO of Itakane ICT.
“We are extremely impressed and inspired by the level of commitment, dedication and vision demonstrated by this young, black-led South African, home-grown technology group. We are currently working jointly on a number of African public sector, digital platforms with them and are extremely confident in joint success.”