RESOURCES: Unlocking the power of data in the public sector

The potential of data to build resilient futures

In January, the first Futurecasting webinar of 2024 explored the transformative power of data within the public sector.

Tackling South Africa’s development challenges requires evidence-based policies and data-lead decision-making that upholds ethical standards and fosters citizen engagement.

Host Professor Emma Ruttkamp-Bloem, who plays many roles in the AI ethics space and heads the University of Pretoria’s Philosophy Department, invited leaders from South Africa’s public sector and African civil society to outline how digital advancements could improve service delivery, inclusive citizen engagement, and equitable data-driven governance.

Watch the full webinar [1.5 hours]

Creating an enabling digital environment for equitable service delivery

Alfred Mmoto, Chief Director for South Africa’s Department of Communications and Digital Technologies emphasised the huge potential of artificial intelligence (AI) to address inequality.

Alfred stressed how:

  • Clear policies, frameworks and investment are urgently needed to close the current digital access and skills gap, and foster a digital trust environment to promote regulatory certainty and equitable service delivery.

“We believe that for government to be able to provide effective and efficient services for citizens, we need to create an environment that enables data sharing and inter-operability of services.”

  • Regionally, purposeful cross-border collaborations would allow South Africa to tap into the global digital ecosystem without compromising the data and information of citizens and businesses

Watch Alfred’s presentation

Transforming South Africa’s data infrastructure and management

Dr Sandile Mbatha, South Africa’s National Chief Data Officer, COGTA shared exciting insights into his new role heading up South Africa’s national strategic data hub, launched end-2023.

Sandile highlighted how:

  • Thinking about the full life cycle of any data point uncovers the full value chain within a system.

“Data is critical infrastructure, it’s an asset, and no decision can be made without data, particularly in the public sector.”

  • Poor data governance, working in data siloes and a lack of data-sharing principles and capabilities has an adverse impact on government’s ability to deliver services.
  • Monetising data prevents the creation of collaborative spaces to address challenges.
  • The public sector must work together to build a robust data ecosystem that speaks to citizen needs.

Download Sandile’s presentation (PDF) here.
Watch Sandile’s presentation

Investing in people: Insights from City of Cape Town’s Data Science Unit

Delyno du Toit, Data Science Manager at the City of Cape Town’s Future Planning & Resilience Unit shared how the City’s practical approach to leveraging data for efficient service delivery emphasises agility and embraces open source technologies and automation.

Delyno shared how:

  • The benefits of automation include scalability, reduced costs and operational agility, with opportunities to scale at a national level.
  • The City’s decision to invest in people over ‘more’ technology is paying off, helping to establish a Centre of Excellence

Download Delyno’s presentation (PDF) here.
Watch Delyno’s presentation

The magic of citizen-lead data collection

Loise Mboo, Chief of Staff and Director of Team Wellness with the Open Institute Africa in Kenya shared how collaboration between governments, CSOs and citizens can strengthen citizen voices in governance and development.

Loise emphasised how:

  • Citizen-generated data (CGD) speaks to local contexts for active public engagement, yet is overlooked despite its ability to foster collaboration and inclusive decision-making.
  • Centering people in data collection enables a better understanding of on-the-ground problems resulting in solutions that better respond to local challenges.

Download Loise’s presentation (PDF) here.
Watch Loise’s presentation

About Futurecasting

The Futurecasting webinar series, hosted by the Economic Development Partnership (EDP) aims to cultivate a dynamic platform for futures thinking and inclusive dialogue to empower communities, governments, and businesses to collaboratively navigate an uncertain future.

For more information, or to propose future topics and partnerships, email Nobungcwele Mbem, EDP Project Lead at nobungcwele@wcedp.co.za