Long after the 2010 FIFA World Cup has come and gone, Johannesburg will be able to point out the positive impact of the event on its environment, and Johannesburg City Parks is busily jazzing up the city’s parks in the run-up to ensure a green legacy beyond 2010.

The thing Jozi residents will remember most fondly of City Parks’ 2010 programmes is the city-wide greening, beautification and conservation initiatives that are aimed at transforming dustbowls into corridors of tree-lined streets, spotted with water features, pebbles, soccer features and pots of plants.
Being financially stretched in the co-ordination of this massive initiative, a software sponsorship of R1,4-million by Microsoft has helped the greening entity to upgrade its technology for the delivery of better project and customer relationship management, as well as to simplify the daily tasks of greening, conserving and managing greater Johannesburg’s parklands, venues and cemeteries.
As part of Microsoft’s efforts to support environmentally friendly processes in the governments of countries in which it operates, the company hopes it will revive a connection between Johannesburg citizens and their environment – something that has been prioritized on the city’s agenda of deliverables.
“When researching the needs of Johannesburg City Parks, the most notable were for well-researched information and a central database that staff can employ to foster greater productivity,” says Vis Naidoo, citizenship lead at Microsoft.
Naidoo says the suite of software will ease tasks from as complex as monitoring the city’s watering and of park ranger activities, to simply educating surrounding communities on conservation and teaching the unemployed youth basic IT literacy.
“Even in this difficult economic environment, working on greening our city provides an opportunity to grow,” says Naidoo. “As the world transitions to new ways of managing natural resources, software plays a unifying role in the conservation of our natural resources.”
Microsoft offers solutions today like virtualization, power management, and collaboration tools that help customers reduce their energy usage, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and cut costs. City Parks is also involved with conservation planning and development, aquatic services and technical resources management over the vast area of north, west, east and central Johannesburg.
“The donation is set to assist in streamlining City Park’s total operations and knowledge management systems,” says City Parks MD, Luther Williamson. “Better coordination translates to improved productivity and savings across our scope of operations.
“Simultaneously, our greening strategy is enhanced by the technology with the benefits of saving paper and reducing the city’s carbon footprint. The donation has assisted us in reallocating what we would have spent on software to other critical areas of operations.”
Technology is aiding the smooth execution of City Parks’ mandate to provide communities with environmental education and awareness. For instance, school training at the Dorothy Nyembe Training Centre in Soweto, around environmental theme days and programmes, such as National Wetlands Day and Arbor Month, can now be hosted electronically.
This centre – the first of its kind in a township in South Africa – also provides the broader community with up-to-date, accurate and user-friendly environmental educational information via a newly-seated computer room.
“As the preparation involves anything from information gathering to the development of environmental games using technology, a programme like Visio assists us in graphing our visual links both at management level and at ground level,” adds Williamson. “Structures, maps and links relevant to our Greening operations can now be drawn and visualised using these programmes.”
With the view to greening 2010 and beyond, Johannesburg City Parks uses Microsoft SharePoint to effectively coordinate functions, share information, automate business processes and execute proper and effective workflows. Using Office Professional, City Parks has started analyzing their projects to gain a much better understanding of how schedule changes affects an entire project.
“While SharePoint has introduced our staff to better, improved online methods, packages such as Microsoft Terminal Server License has helped management to publish internal applications for our workforce and notably the resource-intensive Microsoft Dynamics allows us to free up our resources for more effective IT operations,” says Williamson.
“The CRM programme for the first time gives us a foolproof view of what our customers want and whether we can meet these needs at any given time, from first contact through purchase and point of sales. This applies to anything from wedding and festival facility bookings in our parks to cemetery management.”
Naidoo adds: “Microsoft has a long tradition of tackling tough challenges at a global scale. It started with our original vision of a computer on every desk and in every home. It continues with our current mission to help businesses throughout the world realise their full potential.”