Vodacom is using technology to support service delivery in South Africa by developing mobile platforms to promote active citizenry. The first, OR Tambo District Municipality’s citizenship engagement platform, allows residents of the district to engage the municipality on any service delivery concerns.
The OR Tambo District has given its platform the name “Thetha Nathi” which means “Talk to us”. The solution provides the municipality with an omni-channel system through which citizens can access services and engage the municipal administration.
For the first phase of deployment, the municipality has prioritised the management of water and sanitation. Through this solution, residents will be able to engage the municipality through multiple channels, namely voice, a mobile app, USSD and email, through the use of their cellular phones – wherever they are. The District Municipality will use the same platform to respond to any queries logged by residents to dispatch water management technicians, ensuring a speedy response to all residents’ water management complaints.
OR Tambo District Municipality’s Thetha Nathi platform will evolve over two more phases to cover other service delivery areas and will later integrate to the province’s service delivery “war rooms”. This will provide the municipality with 360-degree visibility of the handling of citizens’ service delivery concerns. OR Tambo District Municipality is the first municipality to launch the solution, which is now available for use by local residents. Vodacom plans to introduce the solution to other municipalities across the country.
The second app, Link – Powered by Vodacom (Link), is a zero-rated general community app that enables communities to report service delivery issues such as blocked drains, burst pipes, electricity outages, missing manhole covers and refuse issues. Link also offers additional services including the ability to connect to a variety of the Internet of Things (IoT) devices as well as follow community channels which allow users to report and view safety and security related incidents in their communities, view local job advertising and businesses. The platform was built over a period of six years by highly skilled engineers in South Africa, Sweden and the US.
Both Thetha Nathi and Link share the same back-end system, which makes the platforms interchangeable. This means that all reported information relevant to a particular geographic area is shared between the apps. Link also offers a full social media platform for users, including messaging and calling functionality, providing a single view for all messages and notifications on one screen. The app has a free service for all residents’ associations, safety and community forums to report security issues and community information. Link provides a platform for businesses, merchants and brands to promote themselves, enabling them to establish private communication channels with customers.
Vodacom Business chief officer Vuyani Jarana says: “Vodacom is using mobile technology to bring about administrative efficiency and enhance communication between government and citizens in an effort to support service delivery. We are essentially bringing government to the people and providing an unprecedented level of transparency and accountability in the process. As a corporate citizen, Vodacom is responsible for helping government deliver services as efficiently as possible and we are excited to see the positive change which the Thetha Nathi and Link solutions will bring to communities across the country.”
Link director Grant Theis says: “Link partnered with Vodacom because they are the largest and most trusted network in South Africa. The two businesses were also very complementary in their views on using technology to improve the lives of South Africans in general with a specific focus on safety, service delivery, jobs and education. The uniqueness and time to market advantages provided by the Link Platform enables the partnership to solve problems and change lives.”
OR Tambo District Municipality, through its partnership with Vodacom, is now fully equipped with internet connectivity and a specialist call centre established to support the app’s deployment. The platform is available for use on feature and smart phones, through a USSD service (*134*606#) or by downloading the app from the IOS App store or from Google Playstore, which accommodates various languages including English and Xhosa. The municipality will use the accompanying web-based management and reporting portal to receive incident reports from different channels (lodged through the mobile app, via the USSD platform, by municipality walk-ins or via the call centre), allocate reported incidents for resolution, track the time taken to fix reported issues, set and review incident status and pull management reports.
OR Tambo District Municipality’s executive mayor Nomakhosazana Meth says: “Thetha Nathi gives citizens a voice in holding elected government representatives to account. Citizens can view and report on service issues around them, rate local government, communicate with ward councillors, chat with customer service agents and track progress on reported incidents. This is a groundbreaking development for OR Tambo District Municipality and we would like to encourage all local residents to download the app.”