Service delivery is a term on the lips of many South Africans as they try to access provision from the government and rarely a day goes by when news reports do not show protests objecting to failures in this area.
However, a doctoral study conducted by Dr Ayanda Madyibi, Information and Digital Technology Specialist at the Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Consultative Council (ECSECC) and a member of the Advisory Board of the Department of Information Systems, supervised by Professor Roxanne Piderit at the UFH Department of Information Systems has gone some way in addressing problems in the way the government goes about providing public services via what is known as ‘E-government’.
E-government is a way of interacting with citizens using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).
Government departments have websites but not all are as well developed as they could be in the sense of allowing citizens to access the services they need online. Although E-government has been studied in developed countries, much less is known about its adoption and use in less developed nations where the situation is very different.
Many South Africans do not have access to the devices or data that will allow them to access services provided electronically. In addition, the history of our country means that many lack the knowledge and skills to do so.
Thusong Service Centres were set up in an attempt to bring information and services closer to the people. However, a 2018 review conducted by the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) showed that the Centres were not functioning as well as intended for a number of reasons including the state of their physical infrastructure and the model of funding used to support them.
An earlier study had identified perceptions that Thusong Service Centres suffered from poor service delivery, were not user friendly and also noted the limited use of the ICT related services they offered. The study conducted by Dr Madyibi and Professor Piderit aimed to address the lack of research on e-Government in less developed countries and, more practically, to develop a framework to enhance its implementation in Thusong Service Centres. The research project began with a review of the literature in order to construct a conceptual framework that was then applied to the Thusong Service Centres in the Eastern Cape as a case study so as to confirm and refine it.
Confirming and refining the framework then involved collecting empirical data from twenty-two organisational and five user perspectives including
i) the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) as an agency of government responsible for ICT in South Africa,
ii) Senior ICT Managers from various National, Provincial and Local government entities,
iii) Thusong Service Centre Managers,
iv) Thusong Service Centre end-users and
v) expert reviewers.
This stage of the study also involved reviewing documents including the National e-Government Strategy, the e-Government Policy, the National Broadband Policy and the ICT Policy White Paper. The analysis of all this data then allowed for a revision of the conceptual framework in order to close the gap between theory and practice.
The resulting revised framework identifies a number of areas key to the implementation of e-Government at Thusong Service Centres drawn from the Technology- Organisation -Environment model which informs the study: the organisational context, the environmental context and the technological context.
Elements of the organisational context include the nature of senior leadership, the extent to which collaboration with other governmental entities is achieved and resistance to change.
In the environmental context, the research identified political, economic, regulatory, cultural and social issues. The study identified ICT strategy and ICT infrastructure as the two main factors influencing the technological context. As a result of this analysis, Dr Madyibi, under Professor Piderit’s guidance, was then able to go on to identify four steps that need to be taken by government decision-makers in order to make the implementation of E-government in South Africa more effective.
These steps are a review of the existing status of e-Government, the adoption of the framework, the balancing of the development of technological, organisational and environmental characteristics in order to prioritise future plans, and the monitoring of e-Government projects.
Thanks to the collaboration of doctoral candidate and supervisor, we are a step closer to a future where citizens can access government services in ways that are sensitive to our context as a developing country on the African continent that is nonetheless striving to take advantage of the enormous technological advances that characterise life today.
The work not only aims to provide easier access to services but also demonstrates the commitment of UFH to enhancing the lives of the communities.
Roxanne Piderit, Deputy Dean: Teaching, Learning and Community Engagement, and Associate Professor at the University of Fort Hare.