School of Built Environment & Development Studies

UKZN academics develop Innovative New Tool to Improve Service Delivery

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Drs Andrew Okem and Sithembiso Myeni from the School of Built Environment and Development Studies have partnered with the national Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), to develop and pilot an innovative new multi-million Rand information technology tool called the Municipal Innovation Maturity Index (MIMI).

The goal of the MIMI is to help municipal officials improve service delivery, accelerate social transformation, and alleviate poverty in keeping with the ideals of a developmental state.

The tool will also assess how a municipality, as an organisation, responds to science and technology, and recommend areas of improvement to adopt innovative practices. It provides insights for municipalities to plan for innovation and to migrate to higher levels of innovation maturity.

Principal Investigator Myeni said, ‘It is a very exciting experience to lead the UKZN team in the consortium and to serve in the governance and decision-making structures of the MIMI.’

Myeni was involved in applying scientific thinking in the service of society and demonstrating the importance of measuring public sector innovation. ‘I am convinced that if we can measure, we can understand, manage and lead. I look forward to enrolling municipalities in this strategic intervention that aims to remove barriers to implementing innovation. The support we received from the leadership and employees of municipalities was important in the success of the project. We also enjoyed support from the UKZN leadership including the Dean of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies, and administrative and academic staff.’

Co-Principal Investigator Okem said, ‘The MIMI seeks to stimulate a culture of innovation in municipalities. Being involved in this project over the past few years has been an exciting experience. We have engaged municipal officials through various learning forums for cross-pollination of ideas between them and the MIMI team. I look forward to the MIMI national rollout and its strategic role in mainstreaming innovation behaviour and practices into the business processes of municipalities across the country.’

The implementation testing phase of the MIMI showcased that it can generate maturity scores for municipalities and the valuable role of the processing in facilitating, learning, adoption and implementation of innovation. Following the successful testing, the target of the national rollout is to cover 50% of municipalities over the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) period.

‘An important milestone for the MIMI will be the selection of an institutional host to implement the next phase of the project, including the introduction of innovation awards for municipalities in South Africa as motivation to improve their performance,’ said Myeni.

DSI Director-General, Dr Phil Mjwara, called on all stakeholders in the national innovation system to partner with government in implementing initiatives that support a capable state.

‘I invite all stakeholders to work with us in creating an enabling environment for innovation across the state and municipalities in particular,’ he said, citing a number of initiatives that have been earmarked to bring innovation to various sectors of society.

‘We believe the District Development Model provides an excellent approach to introduce technologies and innovation that can renew existing economic sectors, drive new sources of growth and create a capable public sector, supported by technology to improve the standard of living and the quality of basic services,’ said Mjwara.

A preliminary report of the municipal innovation measurements based on the insight emerging from the pilot phase of this index was shared at the recent launch. In preparing for this piloting phase, 68 municipalities (eight metro municipalities, 20 district municipalities, and 40 local municipalities) were recruited.

The piloting of the digital MIMI allowed for continuous assessment of its feasibility and applicability as a tool to gather information on municipalities and municipal officials’ innovation capabilities. This enabled the MIMI team to refine and revise the instrument. The pilot also helped to identify possible functionality problems that might prevent the digital MIMI platform from operating effectively and was an opportunity to address any system bugs or glitches that might disrupt the tool’s universal access and scale-up.

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