An ambitious new venture has set out to empower South Africans to report service delivery failures, put pressure on service providers to deliver and keep a closer eye on how public money is being spent.
“Text it to fix it” is the concept driving Lungisa, the fledgling cell phone based community monitoring project.
Meaning “fix it” in isiXhosa, Lungisa aims to empower the citizens of South Africa by providing an easy, convenient and inexpensive ways to communicate service delivery problems in their area.
“Text it to Fix it”
This concept is the driving idea behind South Africa’s fledling cell phone-based community monitoring project, Lungisa.
Meaning “fit it” in isiXhosa, Lungisa aims to empower the citizens of South Africa by providing an easy, convenient and inexpensive ways to communicate service delivery problems in their area.
Lungisa is a venture from Cell-Life, a not-for-profit company based in Cape Town that aims to utilise open-source technology to support and improve health and social justice.
“Channels for reporting grievances do exist for ordinary citizens, but they have many barriers to use, especially for poor people,” said Lungisa’s social media coordinator Jessica Hichens.
These barriers, she said, include a confusing array of numbers to call, a lack of toll-free numbers and significant and often costly follow-up requirements.
“Lungisa cuts through all that. It serves as a one-stop-shop for citizens to send reports, including photos, outlining a service delivery problem. We have one SMS number, one email address, one Facebook account…This makes it simple and affordable for people to remember how to contact us,” explained Hichens.
Issues can be reported by texting “Lungisa,” followed by a description and location of the issue to 32759. Additionally, reports can be made by dialling *120*852#, or contacting the organisation through their Facebook, email address, website or MXit application (project.lungisa).
Abongile Nyumbeka, Lungisa’s outreach coordinator, emphasises that “The clearer you are in describing the problem and the more information you give us about it — what the problem is, where it is located, how long it has been a problem — the better we can help you in trying to get the problem fixed.”
Once reported, Lungisa contacts the specific department in charge of each problem. “We do not fix issues ourselves; we act as a conduit and try our best to raise the profile of any particular issue to make sure it is fixed expeditiously by the authorities and contractors in charge,” said Hichens.
Nearly 300 reports have came to Lungisa since it was piloted in October of last year, ranging from burst water pipes, potholes, faulty electricity metres, plumbing, lack of drugs in clinics, and many more.
All reports made to Lungisa are posted on the organisation’s website so that the progress can be followed. They also provide up-to-date visual representations of what problems have been reported and where they are most often occurring.
A Cell-Life spokesperson said the project had the ability to empower citizens from all economic levels: “By making all citizens potential monitors of how money is being spent across the country, Lungisa aims to make it more difficult for corruption to flourish in some cases and for service contractors to get away with providing services of a poor quality,” he said.
While only officially being run in Khayletshia, reports have already started coming in from other areas of Cape Towns and the organisation hopes to spread throughout the whole country.