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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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SA gets gaming awards

Reed Exhibitions Africa recently announced that the inaugural South Africa Gaming Awards will be hosted at Comic Con Africa 2019.

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The South Africa Gaming Awards is set to become a key feature of Comic Con Africa and has been established to celebrate individuals, teams, developers, streamers, journalists and the like in the gaming industry. Categories and submission details will be announced early in 2019 for the awards which will take place in September.

Carol Weaving, Managing Director of Reed Exhibitions states: “On the back of the roaring success of the inaugural Comic Con Africa earlier this year we came to the realisation that there is no platform of this nature on the African continent where those who are excelling in the gaming industry have an opportunity to be acknowledged. We want to bring peers and like-minded individuals together to celebrate this industry and build this community across the board. To all future entries: Game on!”

Comic Con Africa 2019 will take place from 21 – 24 September 2019, at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand.

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What tech’s 3 wise men tell us to expect

Advice from three wise men will lead SA into the 4th Industrial Revolution, writes ANDRIES BRINK, CEO of Andile Solutions

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Over the past 50 years, 3 wise men made predictions that have become definitive in our time. Gordon Moore said data processing would double in capacity every 18 to 24 months, Mark Kryder predicted that data storage would expand at about the same rate, and George Gilder said the bandwidth connecting different nodes would double at three times that speed. Like the sages from the biblical story, they saw a massive star rising ahead of them.

Today we stand in the radiance of technology’s sun. My consumer grade phone is more powerful than most corporate data centres at the turn of the century. It has 200,000 times more memory than Voyager 2, which just left our solar system. In lockstep with this progress, today’s data centres produce decentralised processing power at incredibly cheap prices. These have found their way to humanity and are delivering on the promise of a new dispensation. Maybe LOCNVL had a point when they sang in 2010 that they had a sun in their pocket.

Let’s change our focus, for a moment, to Africa, which despite having nearly a billion people still only produces roughly $3.5 trillion in GDP. Apple, Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook have a collective market capitalisation of the same amount, yet do so with 0.08% of the number of people. To say Africa is missing out on the technology sun is an understatement. While everyone can benefit from this change, only a few will be positioned to lead it. It’s a fact quite visible wherever you look.

Andries Brink, CEO, Andile Solutions

Over the centuries, we have learnt that only four composers (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Tchaikovsky) wrote almost all the music played by modern orchestras. Similarly, just a handful of authors sell all the books (of 1,5 million books published each year, only 500 sell more than a hundred thousand copies), and of the few scientists that actually publish papers that are accepted, only a very small percentage are then actually referenced by their peers. Business majors will note that this phenomenon was captured eloquently by 18th century Italian polymath Vilfredo Pareto and his 80/20 principle.

The question we should ask ourselves is: how can SA be part of the 20%, the mavericks that change the world instead of the 80% who end up as followers? For the answer, we need not look further than Lesetja Kganyago, the governor of our Reserve Bank:

“Lasting wealth… isn’t in a country’s soil but in its citizens’ heads. Countries get rich because people develop specialised skills, and because they find ways to cooperate so they can do things much too complex for any individual to do alone. To handle all this complexity and specialisation, people gather in firms, and firms interact in markets.”

He warned that when a state declares war against market mechanisms and wealth, it kills off investment and scares skilled people away. Natural resources don’t get used effectively, no matter how abundant they are, and the economy doesn’t develop other kinds of industries either.

It’s not hard to back this view: the mess in the DRC, the collapse of Zimbabwe, and the unbelievable accumulation of debt by Zambia reveal how disdain for market principles have hobbled what should be highly productive nations. Neither is it hard to find positive examples: India and Singapore have transformed their economies thanks to very business-friendly environments, and they have reduced poverty as well. The rise of the Asian Tigers had a lot to do with using market mechanisms effectively.

This brings us to the saviour part.

Minister Rob Davies recently declared that “there would be serious winners and losers due to the 4th industrial revolution (4IR).”, sounding vaguely familiar to a disturbing passages from the Holy Bible, a book that we can be certain the Minister did not mean to reference. In Matthew 13:12, Jesus says that:” For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” (The reader should be aware that economists often refer to the Pareto principle as the Matthew principle in relation to the above)

A significant number of things have been taken away from South Africa during the Zupta era. Yet South Africa still has an incredible opportunity here:

Yes, since 2008 SA has plunged 22 spots from 45th position. Yet we are still in the game and can reverse the trend, particularly if we harness 4IR beyond mentions in speeches. To me the opportunity is obvious. We have the finance system, market size and innovation capability to create a hotbed for 4IR-fueled progress. Looking at my industry, we should find ways to bring the smartest fintechs to South Africa.

Therefore, during this festive season, let us listen to our favourite devices streaming Mozart and Beethoven whilst we study and embrace the wise words of Pareto and other trusted saviours. The governor has confirmed our course. If SA Inc. could open doors for that 0.08 % of innovators and give them a reason to bring their wealth and knowledge here, we can accomplish amazing things as a nation. The three wise men have shown us a great rising star that everyone, even our most Marxist ministers, can see on the horizon. In 2019, let’s hope, and pray, we can converge on the opportunity.

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