Govt reaches 23 million through public engagement

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cape Town – Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), the department responsible for communicating government’s key programmes, was able to reach more than 23 million South Africans through hosting over 3 000 public participation events in the last financial year, its acting CEO Phumla Williams said on Tuesday.

Williams said the events in the 2012/13 year enabled various national, provincial and local leaders to engage with communities to hear people's views and share information about government's plans and policies.

Among other things, the events helped to promote the Brics summit, the Africa Cup of Nations and child protection, while also gathering views from community members in the lead up to President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address in February.

Briefing the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on communications, Williams told the committee that GCIS had in the first quarter of this year taken a strategic view to communicate government programmes and its five priorities to community members, a function which individual government departments had fulfilled before.

The five priorities are job creation, health, education, rural development and fighting crime.

In his foreword to the GCIS annual report for 2012/13, the Minister in the Presidency for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Collins Chabane, commended the department, and said government communications had a key role to play in helping South Africa realise the National Development Plan's Vision 2030.

The publications GCIS distributed in the last financial year include 1.7 million copies a month of Vuk'uzenzele newspaper; over 4 800 Braille copies of Vuk'uzenzele; 170 000 copies of the monthly magazine Public Sector Manager; 60 000 copies of the quarterly publication GovComms; 20 000 copies of the annual Pocket Guide to South Africa and 45 000 print copies and 4 000 DVDs of the SA Yearbook.

During the year under review, GCIS also rebranded the government news agency, formerly known as BuaNews, as, which now offers a range of multimedia content online. The site attracts around 700 000 hits a month.

GCIS also stepped up centralised media bulk buying, which secured better value for government's advertising spend – saving the state R30.5 million through discounts and added value.

Williams said GCIS had since 1998 been buying on behalf of government departments, but that up until 2009, this function had been outsourced because of lack of capacity – until a decision was taken to train public servants to undertake the function in-house.

In addition, GCIS found innovative ways to communicate with those who have little access to traditional or digital media.

One such innovation was a partnership with Transnet's Phelophepa Health Train, which visits 24 train stations in four provinces and provides services to 380 000 people.

Thusong Service Centres, located primarily in rural and underserved areas, continued to provide government services and distribute communication products, reaching more than 3.1 million people during the reporting period.

Williams told the committee that in the first quarter of 2013/14, GCIS met 88% of its 109% performance target, and had also been able to pay 100% of its suppliers with 30 days upon invoice – up from 98.7% during the 2012/13 year.

Reaching the community

In the quarter, GCIS held 71 izimbizo, in which the department was able to take political principals to meet with people and drove over 20 communication campaigns, including promoting the Department of Home Affairs’ new Smart ID.

GCIS also runs two news services a day, which flight on all 65 community radio stations.

Williams said GCIS had also been able to respond quicker to media stories through its daily Rapid Response reports.

She said GCIS received a report of a member of the public in a Mpumalanga community, who had complained about sewage leaking into his yard for three months. GCIS was then able to quickly report the matter to the municipality concerned, which resulted in the matter being resolved.

To widen its coverage, GCIS had recently appointed a director of social media in a bid to expand communications on social network websites.

Deputy Chief Executive Officer: Content Processing and Dissemination at GCIS, Harold Maloka, told the committee that the department had sourced digitalisation technology from an overseas company to help digitise its archive of video footage, and had put out a request for quote for a service provider to digitise the footage.

Maloka estimated that it would take about six months and cost about R200 000 to digitise all video footage.

He said an annual report, which would assist those in the media to understand the media environment and encourage debate in the sector, would be released in the current financial year. The report was initially meant to be released in the last financial year, but was delayed because of capacity constraints. –