eThekwini, South Africa
eThekwini Strat Hub
BASIC CITY DATA
- Population size: 3500000
- Population Growth Rate(%):0.90
- Surface Area (sq.km): 2291
- Population Density (people/sq.km): 6800
- GDP Per Capita (U.S.$): 8460
- GINI Index:0.65
- Main Source of Prosperity: Food (16%); Automotive (13%); Basic and other chemicals (8% and 7% respectively); and Paper and Paper Products (6%) are responsible for more than 50% of the manufacturing sector
The Strat Hub is a 3-tiered innovation of data visualisation, digitization&automation and cloud data warehousing. The strategic objective of this initiative is to use data and digital tools to enhance the City’s operational efficiencies while improving service delivery. The power of technology and data has been harnessed to drive innovation and digital transformation. The hub is a platform where members of the public, policymakers, business practitioners and municipal officials alike can access insights needed to make decisions ranging from everyday livelihood decisions to policy and strategic decisions. The Strat Hub hosts a series of strategic tools that include dashboards, indexes, open data, and digital forms that provide insights on various functions and operations of the municipality; the Liveability index, open SDG portal, Greenbook Metro View, Open GIS data and the Digital Forms Platform all of which are available to the public.
The Strat Hub is a tool aimed at using data to support institutionalization of SDGs and the New Urban Agenda and the implementation of South Africa's National Development Plan (NDP) and Integrated Development Plan (IDP). The initiative is a platform that empowers citizens to be resilient during disasters by offering early warning systems while also increasing local government's capacity to respond to climate disasters.
For many years eThekwini Municipality has been making decisions based on instincts and political sentiments. The consequence of this has been operational inefficiencies, poor planning, and misdirected allocation of resources which have all resulted in poor service delivery for the citizens. The innovation uses digital tools and data to address these challenges by integrating city-level data and providing analytics that improve how decisions are made on operations, planning and resource allocation.
The initiative uses data-driven insights and digital tools to improve operational efficiencies, break silos, maximize resource allocation, improve co-governance and support policymaking. Citizens, political leaders and officials are now empowered to make decisions based on insights. Majority of strategic decisions are based on insights and resources. The Strat Hub fosters collaboration across departments and bring in citizens’ voices into decision-making. This is improving how short-term, medium-term and long-term decisions are made. Through the use of digital tools, service delivery requests are responded to timeously and with efficiency.
Transformation in the public sector is a long-term process. The change towards becoming an insight-driven city is gradual and incremental. It is envisaged that the next three years will produce the most influential changes in how strategic planning and operational decisions will be made. There are already significant changes made such as how environmental health inspections and disaster response tools are digitally enabled. There is a significant reduction in the use of paper and manual processes.
The Strat Hub leverages digital tools and data to enhance the city’s capacity to improve strategic decision-making and operations. It is a 3-layered innovation that involves data visualization; cloud data warehousing; and digitization & automation. Through integrating city-level data and leveraging digital tools, the innovation is supporting city officials, politicians and citizens to make informed decisions on governance, planning and implementation. The initiative provides insights into human resources, environmental risks, urban safety, socio-economic development, infrastructure delivery and basic services. These insights are improving the way resources are allocated and are enabling collaboration across the institution. Many of the services have been digitized and automated and this has significantly improved service delivery response times. For example, the team has leveraged real-time geolocation data on electricity, water and sanitation faults and vehicle tracking to drastically improve the response. Moreover, waste collection routes have been optimized using the power of data and technology.
Initially, the team that developed the Strat Hub was inter-departmental and was led by Dr. Sandile Mbatha who served as the champion of digital transformation in the city. Since then, the city’s journey of becoming a data-driven organization has been institutionalized and embraced as a strategic direction. Subsequently, the city has attracted external funding to support the development of a data strategy thatwill provide a strategic direction on the use and governance of data. The Strat Hub has provided a foundation for a shift towards reducing reliance on manual and paper-based processes to digitized and automated processes and services thus improving operational efficiencies
The initiative is based on the profound realization that local government alone does not have adequate resources and skills capacity to innovate. A principle of co-creation and leveraging an ecosystem of private, academia, civil society and community partnerships was adopted. Through this ecosystem, the capacity to innovate drastically improved and led to the co-creation of various digital tools. The initiative leveraged technical expertise and resource wealth from the private sector and the empirical positioning of citizen science to design tools that are responsive and inclusive. Through this process, the team managed to elevate community and civil society innovation in areas of disaster response as an example thus supporting Target G of the Sendai Framework.
The Strat Hub extracts value from operational systems and digital tools by optimizing the data produced by these systems for analytics. As a starting point, the initiative technical resources such as Power Apps to digitize and automate service requests and other services. In terms of human resources, the initiative has upskilled internal technical resources that were underutilized within the institution to increase the capacity to innovate. The initiative is led by a passionate data steward, thought leader and ecosystem builder who leverages his leadership to bring everyone on board.
The initiative is evolutionary as it had set out to only integrate city-level data. Through realization that it was not possible to extract value from data without focusing on cloud data warehousing and digitization and automation of processes related to service delivery. Then there was a need to build a single source of truth platform where all strategic tools of the city will be hosted. In the process, the team realized the importance of using data to model various scenarios related to climate change risk and more. Through this process, optimal value has been extracted which has added to the importance of the Strat Hub as a Single Source of Truth for decision-making in the city.
DESIRED CHANGE OR OUTCOME
The initiative has supported our Transport Authority secure funding for their road safety programme by demonstrating to political leadership the impact of road crashes on people's lives, particularly women and children. Instead of submitting thick technical documents that are difficult to understand, the department shared insights from the Crashes Dashboard thus allowing the leadership to have visual evidence of the challenge. Based on what they observed, a budget for the road safety programme was approved. Moreover, during the recent flooding disaster, the Strat Hub empowered citizens to assess the vulnerability of their neighborhood and make evacuation decisions.
A combination of site visits is used; time spent on the site and how people access the site (extracted using Google Analytics). The quality of time spent on the Strat Hub is also measured. Above that, the initiative also solicits feedback through social media, surveys and direct email contact. The data it collects is disaggregated by age, income, location etc. This contributes to the idea of the Strat Hub users.
The initiative takes a regional view and incorporates neighboring smaller municipalities. This is based on the understanding that municipal boundaries are porous and therefore a regional approach is beneficial to a larger segment of the population. It is inclusive and embraces the socio-economic diversity of the region. It centres eThekwini as a regional economic hub and engages a broader variety of stakeholders who are part of this ecosystem.
The initiative currently affects all the city inhabitants and stakeholders. It is learned that youth are particularly interested in using the tool. The city is aware of the digital divide that prohibits some from accessing the tool and is taking measures to close this gap.
RELEVANCE TO SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
The project contributes to the #9 GOAL which focuses on exploiting the potential of smart technologies that contribute to the reduction of environmental impacts and fostering an innovative approach to automate the procedure of approving infrastructure projects.
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation