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Municipalities need to embrace Web applications

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Municipalities face numerous challenges in their effort to deliver basic services to the public. Some of these include a lack of access to, and sharing of, information between departments, extended query turnaround times and a lack of skills within the public sector.

“People are sent from office to office not knowing where exactly to go to access services, due to a lack of access to information and a lack of shared information between local government departments,” says Adapt IT manager for business development, Warren Chavda.
“In many cases, each department works off of disparate systems, managing municipal services, and therefore no single integrated view of all the services provided to a citizen is available.
"Municipalities also lack an integrated platform enabling them to respond to citizen’s queries in the shortest possible time, meaning that the queues at local government office are long and the turnaround times for resolving a query are extensive,” he explains.
“After working with a number of municipalities and developing over six software solutions for individual municipalities, we started to see that most municipalities struggle with similar challenges and all require a very similar IT solution. As a result, we used our knowledge and experience gained to date to develop an out-the-box system to control document flow, manage processes and service queries efficiently,” says Chavda.
ePality was developed in 2010, specifically for local municipalities and government agencies.
The suite provides solutions to some of the main challenges faced by municipalities through a number of different modules, including a document management system, tender modules, fault reporting, vacancy publishing, internal collaboration module for meetings, task management and announcements, key performance indicator dashboards and reporting and monitoring services.
ePality also provides transparency and accountability through workflow logs, audit trails and permissions.
“ePality’s value lies in its ability to use advanced technological solutions at a grassroots level. We have done the groundwork for municipalities and now offer a standardised package, developed on both open source and proprietary technologies, which can be set up quickly and cost effectively,” says Chavda.
There are currently three ePality solutions deployed at local government agencies. These include the small municipality of Umzimvubu in Kwazulu-Natal, where the entry level core solution with most of the modules has been implemented.
“Each module has been developed to comply with the latest legislation around tenders, vacancies, reporting and monitoring, saving municipal staff time and energy in order to comply with the legislation.
"The municipality is already enjoying the benefits of having an online presence and being able to share information with citizens, while still maintaining control over the content. Adapt IT also provides support and training to the municipal staff on the system so it is not a stop-and-drop implementation,” says Chavda.
A version of ePality has also been deployed at Enterprise iLembe, the Economic Development Agency for the iLembe District Municipality in Kwazulu Natal, which is responsible for the promotion of Trade and Investment and local economic development in the region, as well as at the Municipal Institute of Learning, which is part of the eThekwini Municipality, responsible for capacity building, strategic partnerships, collaborative research and municipal technical support.
“We have found great interest from municipalities in the ePality offering. However, current municipal budgets remain focused on the delivery of tangible assets rather than on the benefits of Web applications. While many key members of municipal management can appreciate the value that this offering can bring to municipalities, it is still a challenge to adequately articulate the benefits of the solution to others,” says Chavda.
Overall, ePality is a ready-to-implement, robust and reliable solution designed to help municipalities turn their vision into a reality, having a real-world impact on service delivery for the citizen at the end of the line.