MobiSAM to provide glimpse into citizen survey results

By Yeukai Mukorombindo


MobiSAM data collector assisting participant to complete survey.

During the last month MobiSAM conducted a citizen baseline survey.

The data was gathered by a dedicated team of community based data collectors working across the 14 wards in Makana. In addition, online surveys were distributed via social networks to encourage “digitally connected” citizens to share their opinion from the comfort of their mobile devices.

For those new to the mobile application and its intended use: MobiSAM ‘s goal is to increase citizen participation in local government through the use of cell phones. The app which is launching in September, allows residents to report problems with service delivery in real-time and allows the municipality to view these reports and to communicate with residents. Therefore, using the survey data the MobiSAM team have collated information which will enable understanding of the current levels of citizen satisfaction with municipal services as well as the current levels of citizen participation in local government processes.

The aim of gathering said intelligence is to use it to guide a process of integrating the MobiSAM system within Makana Municipality’s socio-economic and political context.

“Like any citizen engagement initiative, government responsiveness is also fundamental to the operation of any tool designed to support the two-way relationship and communication between local government and citizens,” says MobiSAM’s co-director Prof Khene.

As such, a baseline study was also conducted within the Municipality to understand their existing communication practices within departments, between departments, and with the general public.

“Makana has faced many service delivery challenges and one of which is related communication with all citizens – MobiSAM aims to support the alleviation of this particular challenge, in supporting service delivery planning

“We are keenly aware that not everyone has access to Internet-enabled mobile phones and expensive technological devices and thus information from the survey will help us assess the type of mobile devices and the degree of mobile literacy in Makana to ensure that even the most basic mobile phones can allow residents to still benefit from MobiSAM, ”says Prof Khene.

MobiSAM also aims to improve participation by residents and local civic actors in local government processes.

Taking cues from existing survey’s and the current socio-political climate in the Municipality as well as nationally, “The survey asks whether citizens participate by way of voting, direct engagement with municipality or indirectly through elected local representatives.  The survey provides a rare glimpse into the perceptions and attitudes of Makana residents in relation to opportunities provided by citizens to engage and participate in municipal affairs,” says Prof Thinyane who is co-directing the project with Prof Khene.

Other telling and interesting information that will come from the survey results relates to access to  and knowledge of municipal documentation such as; budgets, plans, audit reports among others.

As a team of researchers and developers we are hoping that it will be eye opening in terms of understanding if and why people are apathetic to voting, or if and why they are not making use of the platforms provided to engage in local government processes.

“Most importantly the survey results can highlight what is broken in local government participation processes in Makana and what we can do to fix it, not only as MobiSAM but all together as active citizens,” Prof Thinyane stated.

Prof Khene pointed out that a comprehensive report containing detailed results of the survey will be released in due course but residents could access some of the results on their facebook, twitter and blog.

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