Heat map app to detect long queues at Home Affairs

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

From developing a heat map showing customers which offices have long queues to increasing working hours during peak period, the Department of Home Affairs says it is implementing several strategies to deal with long queues.

Thulani Mavuso, the department’s director-general, said this when he updated the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs on the progress that has been made to deal with long queues at the department’s front-line offices.

Mavuso said the unprecedented long queues, which were brought to the department’s attention as far back as January 2018, prompted the Minister at the time to conduct an unannounced visit at Home Affairs offices to observe the situation at a “personal level” and establish the nature of the situation as well.

This led to the Minister directing the department to conduct an assessment in order to develop intervention strategies that will deal with the challenges of long queues and to improve service delivery, which was followed by the launch of the “war on queues campaign”.

Making a presentation to members of the committee, Mavuso said among several challenges that made queues even longer was unpredictable walk-ins, the discontinuation of Saturday working hours, inadequate front office space, unstable systems, inefficient work flow processes and uncoordinated communications strategies, among others.

To deal with unpredictable walk-ins, he said the department was looking into developing a system that will enable it to issue tickets for overflow clients.

“…We want to encourage the utilization of the eHome Affairs system to say in a particular office, we then create a counter that deals specifically with those people who have already done their application online, all they just need is to just capture biometrics.

“We are also looking at developing a smart phone app for the re-issue of passport and smart ID cards. In this regard, we are thinking that what will work for us is that we should allow clients to be able to apply for the re-issue of their documents without them coming to do enrollment,” he said.

He said this would involve the department using the same details and biometrics that were used in previous applications.

Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, Mavuso said, was also in talks with bargaining unions to renegotiate the discontinuation of Saturday working hours as there is a belief that Home Affairs is not a Monday to Friday kind of a department.

To deal with inadequate management, Mavuso said the department was looking at conducting continuous training on operations management, service quality management and client relations.

Creating a support system for managers through, among others, over the top services such as Whatsapp groups and video conferencing was also being looked at.

A new network architecture was being developed to address unstable systems.

He said to improve coordinated communication we intend to develop a heatmap on our website, and this is doable by utilizing cellphones. What happens … is that in a particular area … there is a company that has approached us to help us with that. So basically what you do, you check the number of people who are in the office based on a number of cellphones in the area. The heatmap will tell you how many people are there, it will show whether it is red or green, by just utilizing the location of the cellphones which are in that area,” he said.

He said this way, clients will be able to visit the heatmap on the website to know where the long queues are with a view of going to offices with shorter queues.

Progress on implementing intervention strategies

Mavuso said the department was, in the meantime, looking at extending working hours during peak periods – like the first week of January – for high volume offices to open their doors between 7am and 7pm.

He also said that the live capture office footprint had been increased from 184 to 193 offices, with two new bank branches offering the eHome Affairs service being added to the existing 13.

Some 120 officials from various offices have been trained on client relations, service delivery improvement plans and operations management. – SAnews.gov.za