McLean Sibanda, CEO of the Innovation Hub, explains that the advantages of a competition of this nature is not only the access to new ideas, knowledge and innovative solutions that the municipalities can use to address service delivery, but also the opportunities for inventive people and entrepreneurs to find commercialisation of their clever ideas.
“The competition format supports the mandate of local government and also provides a much-needed boost for fledgling enterprises,” says Ben Zaaiman, CEO of mLab Southern Africa, which is an implementation partner providing domain expertise for the mobile theme of the competition. He says it can be very difficult for innovative startups to find the resources to commercialise their solutions.
“Innovators need to have the freedom to build their products and their businesses without worrying – for a while at least – about how they will put bread on the table,” says Zaaiman. “This is why the bulk of the prize money will be given out as a seed grant.”
The competition aims to assist in bringing local government and the innovators to the same table. The goal is to find a first pilot customer for the solutions within local government, and if the solutions prove successful, there may be interest from other provinces as well.
“The two themes of mobile and green technology support the provincial ICT and Green economy strategies. They were chosen to respond to priority growth sectors identified in the Gauteng Employment Growth and Development Strategy (GEGDS) within the province, and also a means of furthering one of the objectives of the Gauteng Innovation Strategy to improve public service delivery,” says McLean.
Mobile phones have penetrated peoples' lives faster than any other information technology, and with nearly 100% of South African households having access to a mobile phone, this provides a unique channel for reaching citizens and making government services more accessible, effective and efficient for all concerned.
The need to move towards a more environmentally-sustainable economic structure has been recognised both at national and provincial level, as laid out in the Green Strategic Programme for Gauteng, approved by the Gauteng Executive Committee in August 2011.
“Local government is not only the primary provider of water and energy resources in the province, it is also a substantial user,” says McLean. “We need to find better ways to manage these resources.”
The competition is open for entries from individuals, teams or businesses, and the proposed solutions can be at any stage, from concept to the early stages of commercial feasibility.
Entries need to display substantial levels of innovation, which can be in the technologies, their applications, or the novelty of the business models implementing the solution.
The competition opened on 15 December 2011, and the closing date for accepting entries will be 29 February 2012. Visithttp://www.gautenginnovation.co.za for more information.