The backers of a new social networking site, Mobilitate, hope to help stem the tide of poor service delivery in SA municipalities, help communities keep track of crime and keep abreast of developments in their neighbourhoods.
“The idea has probably been 10 years in the making, but the technology to make it happen has only now become readily available,” says Lionel Bisschoff, CEO of Kaizania, the company funding and supporting the start-up venture.
Bisschoff and Mobilitate co-founder Arrie van der Dussen (pictured above) have long been fascinated with organisational structures and how social systems can affect them.
Kaizania uses systems thinking in its core business of training large companies on how to be more innovative and the company built Mobilitate using the same concepts, only applying them on a far larger scale and using local communities to organise themselves and better approach local government with problems.
Bisschoff says the concept of Mobilitate is to force transparency in local government service delivery and allow people from communities to work together to make that happen.
Already, the site has almost 4 000 users. “We are signing on between 100 and 150 new users a day,” says Bisschoff.
The service is a mash-up of several social networking services and Google Maps and allows users to pinpoint municipal problems and attempt to have them resolved.
It covers a range of community issues, including basic service delivery problems, crime reports, social causes and local news.
Mobilitate also allows municipal officials to register and respond to registered members who may have posted about problems, including crime.
“We only launched that functionality [access to council members]just before Christmas,” says Bisschoff. However, he says 10 ward councillors have already signed up.
Staff working on the project chase up queries posted to the site by users. That’s only a temporary measure, though, until Mobilitate has signed up a critical mass of ward councillors.
The Centurion and Tshwane municipalities have shown the most interest in the service and the company is already included in many of the official correspondences with citizens.
Bisschoff expects Mobilitate will eventually start generating revenue, possibly through online advertising. For now, though, it’s simply a freely available platform until it gains more traction.
“Fortunately, the cost of communicating using these services is virtually nothing,” he says.
On Wednesday this week, Mobilitate will launch its first mobile services. “People will be able to take photos of potholes they see and upload them directly to the site from mobile,” he says.
“It will take years to gain the traction we are hoping for on Mobilitate, but we had to start somewhere and the platform is the best place to begin,” he says. — Candice Jones, TechCentral
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