School of Built Environment & Development Studies

Awards Spur Innovation in Local Government Service Delivery


UKZN, in collaboration with the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and South African Local Government Association (SALGA), hosted the inaugural Municipal Innovation Recognition Awards (MIRA) at Umhlanga’s Coastlands Hotel on Friday, 9 June 2023.

The event honoured 33 municipalities that participated in the Municipal Innovation Maturity Index (MIMI), celebrated 10 municipalities with a favourable ranking in D-MIMI, and awarded six outstanding innovation projects. 

Ms Normah Zondo, UKZN’s Executive Director: Corporate Relations, said: ‘Today we are casting the spotlight on the pioneering municipalities that have dared to push boundaries, employing innovative systems to significantly enhance service delivery. We are confident that this MIRA 2023 will be the spark that lights the beacon of innovation in our local municipalities that will guide us towards a more prosperous, inclusive and sustainable future for all.’ 

Speaking on behalf of UKZN’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nana Poku, Professor Thabo Msibi, the Dean and Head of the School of Education, said: ‘As we know, innovation is the driving force that moves society forward. It enables us to tackle complex challenges, reimagine traditional processes, and deliver impactful services to our citizens.’ 

He argued that the digital era is upon us, enhanced by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, deployment of mobile technology, data analytics and predictive modelling innovation to transform service delivery in South Africa. ‘We can deploy innovation to address some of the triple challenges that we face as a country, which are poverty, inequality and unemployment. Therefore, we must invest in skills development and capacity building to mainstream the culture of innovation across all levels of government. 

‘Our world is changing, and we must change, too, to remain relevant. We are here today to recognise municipalities that are advancing innovation across South Africa’s municipalities. These are pushing the boundaries and reshaping innovation in the public sector. The MIRA event is one that is years in the making. I am proud that the University of KwaZulu-Natal is part of this history-making event,’ he said. 

Dean and Head of the School of Built Environment and Development Studies, Professor Ernest Khalema said the inaugural MIRA event ‘marks an important turning point in South Africa’s public sector. Through MIRA, we are celebrating the exceptional achievements and groundbreaking work and initiatives of the public sector.’ 

Khalema said UKZN was appointed by the DSI to implement Project 3 of the Viability and Validation for Innovation for Service Delivery Programme (VVISDP), which is tailored to enhance learning and build the capacity of municipalities to adopt and manage technology and innovation to improve the delivery of basic services. The VVISDP initiative is a partnership programme of the DSI, SALGA, and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) funded by the European Union Sector Budget Support Programme and the National Treasury. 

He said it is hoped the best practices are adopted by local governments and encouraged municipal leadership and officials to utilise innovation and technology. Echoing the sentiments of other speakers, he reaffirmed ‘MIRA is an event that is designed to celebrate the promise of technology and innovation in improving service delivery in municipalities in our country.’ 

He recognised the ‘champion of the MIMI project, Dr Sithembiso Myeni and colleagues, and acknowledged Dr Mboneni Muofhe, the Deputy Director-General of the DSI and everyone who assisted in the “technical committee” of the project. 

Dr Sithembiso Myeni, Lead Senior Researcher of MIMI and academic at UKZN, said, ‘MIMI was inspired by the Innovation Partnerships for Rural Development (IPRD) which aimed to pilot and integrate technologies to improve service delivery and the quality of life in rural areas.’ 

He emphasised the need for “innovation champions”, adding that MIMI is ‘indeed a celebration of exceptional achievements and ground-breaking initiatives in the realm of public sector innovation.’ 

SALGA National Executive Committee Member (NEC) and KZN Chairperson, Councillor Arthur Thamsanqa Ntuli, said ‘there are many challenges faced by the sector, and to convene to celebrate good work and to encourage municipalities to inculcate innovation is not just good, but necessary.’ 

Deputy Director-General of the DSI, Dr Mboneni Muofhe, emphasised the importance of ‘inclusivity through innovation.’ He stressed that innovation must be felt by everyone in society and the best way of doing that is by partnering with municipalities, adding that today’s challenges must also inform academic programmes offered at universities. ‘If innovation is not happening in municipalities, then it’s not happening. We have high performing universities and are home to highly rated professionals – globally – but who haven’t really done anything to impact society. For this reason, we shouldn’t have institutions that are world-class and we have problems that are solvable by science and research just three kilometres away from the university and they are not being solved.’ 

He underscored the importance of relevance and using innovation to improve the lives of the people of South Africa. ‘South Africa is a global player in science and technology, but we can’t solve small problems that require basic sciences and graduates in analytical chemistry and micro-biology – which we have in numbers. There is enough brain power here for things to start happening at municipal level – only if we can apply ourselves.’ 

Mr Mamotabo Mohlala, Senior Manager: Local Government Operations and Support within CoGTA, shared updates on the District Development Model (DDM) which aims to improve the coherence and impact of government service delivery and emphasised the importance of investing in technology which is accessible to everyone. 

Chief Executive Officer of the South African Cities Network (SACN), Mr Sithole Mbanga, outlined the formation of the SACN and emphasised the importance of knowledge generation. ‘As municipal soldiers, we support this as we yearn to learn among ourselves.’ 

The Department of Science and Innovation’s Dr Tshepang Mosiea launched the call for the Municipal Innovation Recognition Awards 2024 at the event. 

Entertainment was provided by first-year students in African Music and Dance led by Dr Patricia Opondo. 

To view the awards event, click here

News Timeline