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Cape Town’s budget mapped via data journalism

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The South African Constitution is promoting community involvement with the Cape Town budget, but many citizens have found it to complex to understand. However, a new website is using modern data journalism to make the budget more understanding and interesting.

Despite the Constitution of South Africa promoting community involvement in local government, community organisations have found the City of Cape Town’s budgets too complex and convoluted to understand, and the process of the community engaging with the City on the budget has been met with hostility.

But now a new website from social activist organisations Ndifuna Nkwazi, the Social Justice Coalition and International Budget Partnership, which uses modern data journalism techniques, is helping make the Cape Town budget both accessible and interesting.

As part of its project to get communities involved in the budget, the new website, http://capetownbudgetproject.org.za/, leads users through the budget, bringing clarity to an otherwise murky subject.

“Every year the mayor calls for residents to participate in the budget process by making submissions on Cape Town’s draft budget. Last year fewer than forty people wrote submissions and only 23 were from the public. This has been the trend for the last couple of years,” says Axolile Notywala, a member of the Social Justice Coalition. “It is a R37.5 billion budget that affects all of our lives. The amount of money that gets allocated to Khayelitsha makes the difference between five or ten families having to share a toilet. It determines whether we feel safe at night with streetlights that work.”

Ndifuna Nkwazi’s research found that 15.4% of the City’s R37.5 billion budget is spent on building infrastructure. Of this capital expenditure budget, R1.3 billion is earmarked for water and sanitation, which the group has identified as a priority issue for the City.

“According to government data, one in 12 households in Cape Town have no access to sanitation on-site,” says Shaun Russell, ICT researcher, Ndifuna Nkwazi, “and there are still over 48 000 households that use bucket toilets in the city.”

Using the website, residents can drill right down to their specific wards, allowing them to see exactly what projects the City has planned for their neighbourhoods during a particular financial year. It also gives pertinent information, such as the ward councillor, and demographics based on the South African census, using Wazimap (http://wazimap.co.za).

“In its current state, we just wanted to get a geographic idea of where money was being spent on capital projects. We focused on capital instead of operational spending because it shows long term investment and not short term stop gap measures — which is how they generally spend money on informal settlements,” says Russell.

The website forms part of a campaign that saw Khayelitsha residents deliver over 500 submissions to the City. (http://www.groundup.org.za/article/what-your-business-council-my-experience-trying-participate-city-cape-towns-budget_2939)

The concept of the website was born during data literacy workshops facilitated by the School of Data (http://schoolofdata.org/) and civic coding organisation Code for South Africa (http://code4sa.org) in September 2014.

Hannah Williams, the School of Data Fellow who designed the website, says: “This project demonstrates how design and technology can be used to make complex issues clearer to the public. Budgets are released as unwieldy documents that few people have the time or technical knowledge to read and understand, even though it’s something that affects everyone directly. You can’t have active citizens if people don’t have access to information.”

The workshops, held in Cape Town and Johannesburg and sponsored by the Indigo Trust, trained newsrooms and civic society organisations in the latest tools and methodologies used by the open data movement.

“We’ve seen data become key for civic society organisations,” says Russell. “Open data fosters a transparent and accountable government, but you still need the tools and knowledge to be able to interrogate that data, and to push government to provide it.”

“Section 152 of the Constitution explains an aim of local government is to encourage the involvement of communities and community organisations in the matters of local government,” says the Social Justice Coalition’s Notywala. “Citizen participation is at the heart of democracy. I hope that Mayor Patricia de Lille will take into consideration all the submissions from Khayelitsha residents.”

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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Google to give SA non-profits $2m for innovation

Google is committing $2m worth of funding to non-profits in South Africa through the Google Impact Challenge South Africa, which will see funding awarded to non-profits which are using innovative technology to reach their goals.

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Google is issuing an open call for non-profits in South Africa to apply to receive their share of $2m in funding. Four non-profits in South Africa stand to win $250 000 each, while 8 runners up will each get $125 000. 

Applications are open for the next six months, and non-profits can apply online at https://impactchallenge.withgoogle.com/southafrica2018

Winners will be decided by a panel of local judges and a public vote. The public vote provides a chance for the people to decide which organisation gets an extra portion of funding to help them impact their community. The winning non-profits will get cash as well as access to guidance, technical assistance and mentorship from Google, which they are free to take up should they so choose.

The South African judging panel includes HuffPost SA editor-at-large Ferial Haffajee, businesswoman & TV personality Basetsana Kumalo, South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha, Google SA country director Luke Mckend, singer and entrepreneur Yvonne Chaka Chaka, TV personality Maps Maponyane, singer/songwriter Simphiwe Dana, and computer scientist and entrepreneur Rapelang Rabana. 

The Google Impact Challenge South Africa will close on the 4th of July. The final awards ceremony will be held during the week of 26 November.

At Google for Nigeria in July last year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced Google’s commitment to providing $20m funding to African non-profits over five years. This is the first initiative aimed at realising that commitment.

Says Google Africa CMO Mzamo Masito, “This is the first time we are running a Google Impact Challenge in Africa. Many African non-profits are doing great work with real impact and we’re keen to shine a light on them, and give a financial boost to innovative projects and ideas. We believe technology can help local and national organisations to better reach their goals and solve some of the continent’s most pressing challenges, and we are eager to back people who are using technology in new ways to make a positive difference in their communities.

“We also want to highlight the healthy state of social enterprise in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa today, and encourage non-profits to consider how technology can help them reach their goals.”

Other Google Impact Challenges around the world have supported ideas ranging from smart cameras for wildlife conservation to solar lights for off-grid communities to a mobile application that helps to protect women from domestic violence.

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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