The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), together with its partners, has launched a multi-million-rand information technology tool aimed at helping municipal officials to improve service delivery.

 

The Municipal Innovation Maturity Index (MIMI), which was launched on 21 July, was developed and piloted through a DSI partnership with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) and the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

 

The tool assesses how a municipality, as an organisation, responds to science, technology and innovation, and indicates where municipalities have made progress in adopting innovative practices. Most importantly, the tool provides municipalities with insights into planning for innovation and helps them to migrate to higher levels of innovation maturity.

 

The national rollout of MIMI is expected to enhance the capacity of municipalities to plan, integrate and embed innovation and technology in their daily operations, and to create an enabling environment for innovation uptake in municipalities.

 

Launching the tool during a virtual event, the DSI Director-General, Dr Phil Mjwara, called on stakeholders within the national system of innovation (NSI) 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," said Dr Mjwara.

 

The Director-General mentioned a number of initiatives that the government has developed and funded over the years to bring innovation into various sectors of society.  One of these is the District Development Model.

 

"We believe the District Development Model provides an excellent approach to introducing 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 Dr Mjwara.

 

The model calls for the implementation of an integrated, district-based approach to address service delivery challenges and localise procurement and job creation to promote and support local businesses.

 

In developing the MIMI, the DSI partnered with researchers at the UKZN, SALGA and the HSRC. Principal Investigator, Dr Sithembiso Myeni, said MIMI was a significant tool for improving service delivery at municipal level.

 

"I am convinced that if we can measure, we can understand, manage and lead. I look forward to enrolling municipalities in this strategic intervention aimed at removing barriers to implementing innovation," Dr Myeni said.

 

The implementation testing phase showed that MIMI can successfully generate maturity scores for municipalities, and demonstrated the valuable role it can play in facilitating the learning, adoption and implementation of innovation.

 

Following the successful testing of MIMI, the target for the national rollout is to reach a coverage of 50% of municipalities over the current Medium-Term Strategic Framework period (2019 to 2024).

 

"An important milestone for MIMI will be the selection of an institutional host to implement the next phase of the project, including the introduction of innovation awards as a motivating factor for municipalities to improve their performance," said Dr Myeni.

 

According to a preliminary report from the piloting of the municipal innovation measurements, 68 municipalities (8 metro, 20 district and 40 local municipalities) were recruited. More than half of these municipalities were ranked at maturity level 3, which means that innovation is managed and officials optimise and evaluate solutions, improving on these for internal benefit.

 

Although the participation rate did not meet the expected threshold, it provided valuable insights into the innovation processes within the participating municipalities.  It also allowed for a continuous assessment of its feasibility and applicability as a tool for gathering information on municipalities' and municipal officials' innovation capabilities.

 

The willingness of municipalities to adopt innovative products and processes will go a long way towards improving service delivery.