Make education and safety top priorities, even though they are complex
The City of Cape Town has full control over neither education nor safety. Nevertheless, this study finds that both areas are implicated time and time again. Some cities, such as Seoul, have made great progress in recent years thanks to national education policy changes. Other cities have taken matters into their own hands. When it comes to policies, New York went from being synonymous with crime in the 1990s to be rated the 10th-safest city in the world in 2015. Both of these stories share a theme: commitment and collaboration. Crime and education were made major strategic priority areas and delivery was driven actively with advanced data collection and regular reporting. Cape Town has the power and the ambition to be the catalyst for such a change, as it has shown with its success in tackling unemployment.
Embrace technology and innovation and don’t be scared to experiment
Cape Town’s use of its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is regarded as one of the best examples in the world. But ERP systems are a long way from the new technologies of the fourth industrial revolution. When it comes to many of these ‘smart city’ solutions, there is no set playbook. Cities across the world are experimenting with technology and applications to see which one works best for them.
Cape Town has all the right ingredients to become a test bed for new smart city innovations, yet the city has yet to launch an official citizen engagement app, and its use of the Internet of Things (IoT) and other smart-city solutions is limited. The majority of activities that a city carries out day to day can be improved with technology – there might not yet be 'an app for that' – but there could be.
In the fast-moving digital world, cities cannot apply tried and tested ways of doing business and they should not be scared to fail along the way; it might be the birth of the next success.
Make resilience about more than just water
The megatrend of climate change and resource scarcity means that natural disasters such as the drought Cape Town is currently experiencing will become more common in cities across the world. Cape Town’s water resilience plan is progressing rapidly, with the demand side responding especially well - households have halved their usage in the past year. But this may not be enough. Although the taps are likely to stay on this year, the drought will affect businesses both large - farmers, SAB Miller’s Newlands Brewery, and small - car washes and swimming pools, as well as tourism.
São Paulo provides a cautionary tale: it ranks 6th for Water-related business risk but since this study was concluded, it has been gripped by its worst drought in 80 years. Cape Town should assess its resilience to withstand other natural disasters. For example, the city sits on the Milnerton fault, meaning earthquakes are a 'rare but very real threat'. And resilience is about much more than being able to withstand environmental damage. As the report makes clear, the city also needs to constantly assess its ability to stand shocks of the organisational, social and economic type.
Learn from the best
This study is full of success stories that are replicable: tech-enabled schools in Kuala Lumpur, Ease of doing business in Singapore, water resilience in Los Angeles, recycling in Mumbai.
Cities are often lured into thinking that they are prevented by legislation or funding from doing things differently.
These examples, and many others, show that there are a host of innovative ways to solve even the most complex of problems, often without legislating and at little cost. Cape Town should study the innovative strategies, smart regulations and incentives that leading Cities of Opportunity use to make life better for their citizens.
One example the city could prioritise is land reform. The City owns vast tracts of land, both greenfield and brownfield, and the need for affordable housing in the city is very real, with multi-year waiting lists for social housing.
The city government cannot singlehandedly transform housing supply; this requires private-sector involvement which, along with promotion and active collaboration could be improved by simplifying the city’s complex land regulations, many of which have not been reviewed in years.
Build on the success of tourism
Through initiatives such as Invest Cape Town and Wesgro, the city is building a strong brand and has a clear idea of what the region should be known for, including technology, business process outsourcing, ecotourism and wine. Since the 2010 FIFA World Cup, tourism in particular has gone from strength to strength, with airport passenger arrivals 24% up year on year and a succession of international travel awards – but an equivalent rise in foreign direct investment or educated talent has not yet followed. Government and businesses should challenge themselves to think: 'What would I remember if I came here on holiday?' By focusing on customer-centric solutions like fast 4G/5G networks, visible security and apps to help people get around, the city can use the success of tourism as a springboard for the rest of the economy.
City governments cannot control much of what happens within their boundaries - but they have more influence than anyone else. This study uncovers many examples of the city government working with others to achieve better outcomes, whether with property-owners in city improvement districts, with provincial government to encourage safe driving, or with national government to encourage investment promotion.
There have also been great improvements when city departments work together, as shown by the EPIC emergency response system, and the transit oriented development approach. But there are many more opportunities on the horizon, whether in the devolution of powers from PRASA and Transnet, or in working to simplify business and tourist visas. As with innovation, a culture of collaboration does not always come naturally to government, but it often leads to the best solutions
Citizen-centric government is a win-win
The most powerful form of collaboration is with citizens. Understanding their needs helps to ensure public funds are spent efficiently - for example sending bills via email. Being able to change behaviours - whether it’s carpooling, recycling or using less water - changes outcomes. Inviting citizens to use city data openly may result in the solving of a problem thought too difficult to solve, or the discovery of unknown risks.
Citizen-centric government does not require technology, but it has greatly changed the dynamic. The city currently has multiple, distinct points of contact with its citizens, most of which could be moved from paper and premises into people’s pockets. This might start with a citizen engagement app that allows citizens to view and pay bills, report potholes, or check the latest dam levels.
Such a platform could be updated to host any number of city functions and, in so doing, lead to a re-imagination of the citizen-city relationship.As well as real-time warnings about fires and location-specific transport updates, the app could allow the user to ‘rate’ water engineers like TripAdvisor, or even to hail the police like they would with Uber. Neither is inclusion any longer an insurmountable problem. Around two-thirds of citizens have access to the internet on a mobile device, many of the rest have handsets with basic functions like USSD, and data costs can be overcome by partnering with the networks as many South African banks have recently demonstrated.
Big data to solve big problems
One of the biggest benefits of increased citizen engagement is increased data, but even without citizen engagement apps, the City of Cape Town holds more data on its four million residents than anyone else. If data is the new oil, Cape Town sits on an unexploited oilfield. As with digital technology, it is hard to think of a service the city delivers that could not be improved with better use of data and analytics: optimised fleet maintenance and transport routes; people analytics to improve staff engagement; mining big data to close gaps in billed revenue; predictive analytics to provide more efficient, tailored basic services.
Actively drive data-led delivery
City administrations are often elected on the basis of ambitious visions but fail to implement them, eroding trust in government. The gap between the two is filled by focusing relentlessly on what has recently been termed ‘the science of delivery’. Many governments - including that of the Western Cape - have implemented delivery support units whose sole focus is to drive delivery in a handful of key strategic priority areas, particularly education. As well as emphasising routines, people and leadership, this approach relies heavily on data, but not of the ‘big’ variety described above. Instead the emphasis is on collecting the right strategic data to understand the performance of government and on actively using it
The former might involve city benchmarking reports (such as this study) or tracking outcome areas over time, to observe the effectiveness of different interventions. The latter requires data to be accessible on mobile devices, presented in a compelling way, often with visual dashboards, and kept up to date. Many cities have a 'mayor’s dashboard' which senior stakeholders can use to track key political priorities; London has gone a step further by making its mayor’s dashboard accessible to the most senior stakeholder - citizens.
Attract and retain the best people
As well as attracting foreign talent to Cape Town, the city must also ensure that it attracts and retains the best talent itself. The City of Cape Town alone employs almost 30 000 people, their job satisfaction translates directly into citizen satisfaction. As the future of work changes, the public sector must keep up with what the private sector is increasingly offering. This is twofold: The future of work is both social – flexible, remote working - and technical: employing the skill sets of tomorrow.
The City of Cape Town has recently transformed its organisational structures and is in the process of implementing programmes around flexible working and transversal management. But there is an enormous amount of untapped potential in every workforce and people analytics can be used to understand and improve human relations.
Similarly, in the modern world of work, there is an increasing need for specialist cross-governmental teams that can support existing departments. These include the delivery support units mentioned above, but also teams that specialise in areas such as digital, innovation and data analytics.
Build on strong foundations
Although none of the indicators in this study directly relate to the city’s balance sheet or finances, our Future Cities model recognises that these are critical building blocks for success in citizen outcomes.
Unlike many African cities, Cape Town has a reputation for sound urban finance and infrastructure, consistent service delivery and good governance which have translated into success in this study: high scores for Transportation and infrastructure; collaborative partnerships such as city improvement districts; and successful public employment programmes.
But there is always room to do more. For example: Does the city leverage its assets to their full effect? Is maintenance spending in areas like water enough to ensure current efficiency and future resilience? What steps could be taken today achieving a fully-integrated transport system? As Cape Town embraces new strategic and digital city solutions, it should continually revisit these fundamentals.