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Time to embrace innovation in the public service-Min Dlodlo

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There is an urgent need for the public service space to innovate in order to keep up with the pace of technological advancement, says Public Service and Administration Minister, Ayanda Dlodlo.

“It is necessary for our public sector to rid itself of rigid bureaucratic shackles and ‘siloism’ if we are to make any meaningful inroads against the many challenges afflicting our beautiful country.

“A public sector that is responsive to changing and more complex expectations and demands of our citizenry is necessary.

“Moreover, if appropriately leveraged, we know that innovation is a proven enabler or missing piece of the puzzle for a public sector that delivers a better life for me, for you and everyone else.

“Therefore, we must urgently demand a public sector that is adaptive, agile, and innovative enough to meet the ever-evolving set of challenges of modern statehood,” she said.

On Tuesday, Minister Dlodlo delivered the keynote address at the opening of the two-day 15th Public Sector Innovation conference with the theme: Leveraging Innovation to Enhance the District Development Model.”

The virtual-based conference is hosted by the Centre for Public Service Innovation (CPSI) as a way to highlight the need for innovation to improve service delivery and to improve the lives of the most vulnerable in society.

She said an innovative public sector that is able to deploy new technologies to deliver improved public services to more of our people is both necessary and urgent.

The Minister said the conference stimulate the kind of dialogues which and ideas can mobilise everyone to urgently leverage innovation as a key catalyst for a transformed public sector that is efficient, reliable, ethical and corruption-free, professional, and empowered to deliver on our developmental agenda for our people.

The National Development Plan

According to Minister Dlodlo, the conference is also an important contributor towards building an effective development-oriented public sector and an empowered and inclusive citizenry as envisaged in the National Development Plan (NDP).

“Our government entered into a social compact with its citizens to deal with inequality, poverty and unemployment that have historically been the defining feature of our country.

“In its response, the government has put measures in place to ensure equal access to services by all citizens across the country,” she said.

COVID-19 pandemic

However, she said the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus has made the task of ensuring equal access to services even more difficult, putting strain on the already constrained fiscus.

Nevertheless, the Minister said those in the public service space should find opportunities in crisis and think more strategically and act with urgent and compassion.

“COVID-19, as disruptive and undesired as it is, has presented an opportunity that we cannot afford not to leverage. It has made it more necessary and has put even more urgency for us to innovate, particularly in a world where technology tools have become the centre of social interaction and business processes.

“With the need to continue seamless delivery while maintaining distance, it means we must innovate delivery models.

“Owing to this new normal, it is now a time to think about virtual-based services, automated and remote delivery.

“Not only will this optimise how we function as government and interact with citizens, but it will also reduce transaction costs and increase the efficiency with which we deliver basic services at the local level,” she said.

The District Development Model

The Minister said one of the key objectives of the District Development Model (DDM) is to enhance inter-governmental coordination. “It is to foster practical intergovernmental relation mechanisms to plan, budget and implement jointly in order to maximise impact and align plans and resources…it also seeks to promote the creation of viable opportunities for co-designing of innovative solutions at the district level, where the proximity between government and citizens is much closer.

“Therefore, the conference theme demands that we collectively explore innovative ideas on how we can contribute to the successful implementation of the District Development Model to enhance service delivery and improve the lives of our people,” she said.

For South Africa to emerge and rise above its formidable challenges there is a need for sheer determination and a shared vision.

“We must all put shoulder to wheel and push forward towards a better life for you, me, and future generations. For the public sector, the goal is to find ways of maximising the impact of innovation to ensure sustained delivery of services across the country’s length and breadth and renew the confidence in government’s ability to improve the lives of South African as we emerge out of this pandemic,” she said.