Citizen Engagement mobile application, OpenUp’s brainchild, may help in the realisation of Cape Agulhas, a small municipality in the Overberg area’s vision for a smart city, at a time when the world is moving digital, to address most pressing challenges.
In 2018 Cape Agulhas Municipality embarked on an ambitious Smart Cities Programme, involving smart thinking, smart practices, and smart measurement, to address its institutional challenges and the most critical development needs as identified by the community.
Smart infrastructure, smart safety, smart environment, smart governance, and smart economy are some of the key strategies of the Smart City Programme.
Realizing the opportunity, OpenUp engaged Cape Agulhas Municipality to introduce its Local Government Programme to the Municipal Management.
This was important, since for the Smart Cities Programme to succeed within Cape Agulhas, it was fundamental to establish partnerships and networks, not only with OpenUp, but with various stakeholders from government, interdepartmental cooperation, external stakeholders from other spheres of government and the community at large.
This collaboration on the app enabled the Cape Agulhas municipality to relook and assess its communication systems, including its website to ensure that they are working correctly, the information is updated, simple and easy for ordinary citizens to understand.
Making a conscious effort to understand the problem, is the first step towards software development in OpenUp.
Activating citizen voices
Encouraged by Cape Agulhas’ innovative approach, OpenUp sought to find those with problems.
Though the zeal to implement the smart city programme from Cape Agulhas Municipality was evident, what was not clear was whether citizens were ready for a Citizen Engagement application or they were just keen to have more public meetings, or just to pick a call and speak to someone in the municipality who can help.
Through a process that involved identifying some personas based on engagement with the citizens of Cape Agulhas and its municipality; and workshopping them in order to know their interests, occupation, living circumstances and likely frustrations. OpenUp and Cape Agulhas’ understanding of the target group was beneficial for the development of the envisaged application and the Smart Cities vision.
Some of the recommendations include: to easily and quickly report problems to the correct people with clear proof of the problem so that residents can be taken seriously, not to be disrupted, and to know when service disruptions will occur so that one can prepare.
To speak to the right person in the municipality so that citizens can get a call resolved effectively and for illegal dumping to be reported so that the culprits will be caught are some of the recommendations raised by the community or actual users of the application, which formed the bases upon which the application was constructed.
Today, following 6 months of its development, the Citizen Engagement App Version 1, is nearing completion.
Pathways for co-governance
With the Cape Agulhas Citizen Engagement Mobile application, a user will be able to receive notifications from the Municipality to stay informed, register service requests and receive a reference number.
Further to that the user will be able to view the various services the Municipality offers, as well as contact details of the manager responsible for each service, view the political leadership of the
Municipality, see who the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, Speaker and Ward Councillors are and their contact details.
Traditionally public meetings organized by Cape Agulhas were held in person. But today’s Covid 19 requirements for social distancing and limited gatherings call for new innovative ways of communication and citizen engagement.
To ensure that its vision succeeds, the Municipality has invested a considerable amount in infrastructure development, to improve connectivity access in most of its towns.
It is encouraging to note that there is great appetite from the Municipality, OpenUp and the community for the smart city vision and its related technologies.
Effective utilisation of the Citizen Engagement application by both the Cape Agulhas Municipality and community may lead to the realisation of the municipality’s Smart City Vision.