CheckIT gives the community a voice by enabling field reporting on the functional status of critical infrastructure, facilities, and events. This ICT4D tool puts the power of local knowledge into the hands of communities and their municipal partners, fostering practical conversations targeted towards people’s quality of life.
In many settlements, municipal administrations may record basic service levels as equal to the number of installed facilities (such as taps and toilets); but, in practice, the functional status and location of those facilities is often an unknown factor. Low-functional service levels of public infrastructure may lead to a severe scarcity of resources, which can trigger safety issues relating to health and violence.
CheckIT is a flexible, event-based mobile inspection tool designed by VPUU to improve the delivery of essential services. This monitoring tool aims to facilitate and standardise the process of reporting on the status of basic services. By replacing a paper-based system with this mobile technology, higher quality, more accurate and different varieties of data can now be generated and collected by trained community fieldworkers.
The tool can be user-customised to report on a wide range of infrastructural and social incidents and events. The quality and lifespan of basic infrastructure increases through the direct involvement of communities in monitoring and planning processes.
CheckIT leverages social capital in marginalised communities and informal settlements by enabling communities to localise and report their current needs for support and services. Community members and municipal staff are trained and actively involved in the data collection process in their communities.
The concept of social innovation focuses attention on the ideas and solutions that create social value – as well as the processes through which they are generated, regardless of where they are coming from.
Social innovation is defined by California’s Stanford University professor Sarah Soule as, “the process of developing and deploying effective solutions to challenging and often systemic social and environmental issues in support of social progress. Social innovation is not the prerogative or privilege of any organisational form or legal structure. Solutions often require the active collaboration of constituents across government, business, and the non-profit world”.
Fundamental to the success of social innovation are two principles:
CheckIT follows both principles in its design.
The CheckIT system enables residents to easily report any issues. This mobile application with a cloud database has an intuitive interface that enables residents to help streamline the maintenance process of these facilities. This data flow can be seen as evidence-based conversation between the community and the state – a catalyst for development.
Trained community workers, using Kobo Collect, can attach photos of faults to their reports, as well as capture the exact GPS coordinates of faulty services. These fault reports then uploaded to an online database and sent to the relevant repair centre in the City of Cape Town as structured service requests.
CheckIT has been operating in three informal settlements over the past few years but was recently scaled to 25 settlements as part of a comprehensive COVID-19 response in the Western Cape. It has also spawned a sibling in eThekwini through the Open Cities Lab.
“Information, communication and technology for development has the potential to enable learning and the exchange of knowledge, as well as the collection, storage, and interpretation of information. Most importantly, it is changing the way we identify social issues and conceptualise, design and implement solutions. Thus, it could increase the speed, efficiency, and efficacy of basic service delivery in informal settlements.”Michael Krause, VPUU’s CEO, reflecting on the power of ICT4D in development.
Further, the CheckIt tool was adapted and enhanced for use in the Walking Streets project.
Walking the Streets Project involved deployment of a new tool for monitoring and recording of urban management information within the CoCT. The tool developed is a cellphone application based on CheckIT, and was named the C3 application.
The tool allows citizens, officials and political decision makers on various levels to understand the urban management situation and to assist in prioritising actions to improve quality of life for the citizens of Cape Town. The C3 APP is a data-driven and evidence-based practise to improve the quality of life.
The tool has several intentions, including:
To test the tool, VPUU trained CoCT deployed and managed fieldworker teams in the use of the C3 application. Further, VPUU to supported CoCT Public Participation Unit (PPU) fieldworkers in conducting a baseline assessment of 114 Wards. VPUU successfully implemented a monthly monitoring precinct management programme in Harare. Vpuu also supported CoCT MURP unit in the Uitsig precinct to implement a monthly monitoring precinct management programme utilising the C3 tool.
The images below, from left to right, show mapping per ward with records processed; data by items per ward., detailed heat map of an area.
There were 8 survey items captured by fieldworkers via the application:
1. Illegal dumping and littering on open land and commercial public areas.
2. Blocked sewers with sewerage flowing out of drains, missing lids.
3. Roads potholes, road failure and cracking, and missing paint lines.
4. Stormwater inlets and drains blocked with sand, piles of leaves, debris.
5. Clearly damaged Street Lights and Public Lights.
6. Broken fences of CoCT Libraries, Sports Halls, Community Centres, Parks.
7. Damaged street signs, painted street names not readable or missing.
8. Homeless shelters such as tents, informal structure, not the location of homeless people.
The data collection was conducted via two processes:
Process 1 involved a baseline survey of 114 Wards within the CoCT by the Public Participation Unit fieldworkers. Process 2 was a repeat monitoring in Uitsig and Harare pilot. This was to trial the value of repeat monitoring of selected precincts within CoCT. To achieve this, the Uitsig and Harare Precincts would be used to test the value of repeat monitoring for selected public infrastructure items. These areas would then implement repeat visits over time, building up key data points for each area, which would be analysed and mined for trends and insights.
Commencing with data collection on 27 March 2021 after a month of training of the fieldworkers led by the VPUU team, a total of 18 849 records were collected by the fieldworkers by 15 June 2021.
One of VPUU’s key tenets is safety through design, or more specifically 2nd Generation Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED). It is widely acknowledged that certain opportunities for criminal events to occur could be reduced by applying sound planning, design and management principles to the built environment.
It is also accepted that the physical environment could play a significant role in influencing perceptions of safety.
The National Development Plan 2030 (NDP) acknowledges that situational factors such as spatial or environmental design should be considered when developing a framework for community safety and crime prevention, and specifically mentions “…urban design that will take account of safety…” The critical role of planning, design and management in creating safer living environments, particularly public spaces, is recognised in the Integrated Urban Development Framework (IUDF).In 1996, the government introduced South Africa’s National Crime Prevention Strategy (NCPS).
One of its four pillars focussed on “reducing crime through environmental design”. The implementation of this pillar was supported by an extensive study conducted by the Council for Scientific and Industrial research (CSIR) and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS).
In their book A Manual for Crime Prevention through Planning and Design, authors Tinus Kruger, Karina Landman, and Susan Liebermann describe crime prevention through planning and design as follows: “Crime prevention through planning and design aims to reduce the causes of, and opportunities for, criminal events and to address the tear of crime by applying sound planning, design and management principles to the built environment.
Within the South African context, it incorporates the following:
1. Planning – physical urban planning approaches used at a strategic level, including the promotion of mixed land use, the reduction of vacant land, etc.
2. Design – the detailed design of the different urban elements, such as the movement system and the roads, the public open space system, and individual buildings on their separate sites.
3. Management – the management of the entire urban system and the different elements and precincts that make up the urban area. This includes infrastructure maintenance, the enforcement of by-laws, etc.
Maintenance is a key component of this holistic approach to creating safer environments. Harare, like many former townships, battles with damaged infrastructure. Wear and tear is exacerbated by malicious damage to property and theft.
VPUU’s work on the CheckIT programme was the basis for the development of a system designed for the Walking Streets project. It uses a process of collecting incident data via cellphones and uploading to an online database; where VPUU Data Validators process the information and prepare for use. This can be for sending to CoCT for generating service requests, or for making maps to allow analysis by stakeholders.
For Phase 2 the same process was followed.
VPUU, through MURP, initiated phase 2 of the Walking the Streets Project, whereby VPUU monitored key infrastructure elements in the Harare precinct. The base C3 application was used, but with more items added to monitor. The image below shows items monitored and reported as of February 23rd.
Key to the success of this programme are our EPWP Safety Ambassadors who are trained to use the C3 applications. They conduct daily safety patrols within the Harare precinct, during which they log faults and incidents.
These events are processed via our data validators. Once recorded events are validated, records can be aggregated, and various reports and maps generated by the CoCT for further action.
The combined data enables the CoCT to get real-time updates on key infrastructural issues, and to develop a response strategy to better service these environments. It increases transparency and trust with the community, and enables proper resource allocation.