Project team insights from 2020.
We sat down with the project team to talk about what they enjoyed most about working on Municipal Money and what challenges they encountered. Their insights provide a look behind the curtain of developing a web-based tool for citizen use made with government data, support and funding.
Elsabé Rossouw works for the National Treasury as Director of Local Government Data Management in the Local Government Budget Analysis Chief Directorate. The Directorate is located in the Intergovernmental Relations Division.
Elsabé, what is your role on the project? I was allocated the task of "making it happen" after the National Budget speech in February 2016, where the Minister of Finance committed to launching a data portal. The portal's goal would be to provide stakeholders with municipal financial information and stimulate citizen involvement in local governance.
With guidance and technical knowledge from OpenUp, the journey started. We explored ways to present financial data to citizens to understand what happens to their hard-earned money.
What have been the highlights for you about Municipal Money? For me, it is fascinating to see the stories that users of the Municipal Money portal continue to find in the data. However, some portal users want to contact their municipality to make an inquiry or to complain about their accounts!
Also, working together with serious techies and creative geniuses to produce educational videos. Finding innovative ways in which the present data has also been a real bonus.
I am very proud of the hard work that my team has put into managing, storing and the publication of the local government data that we collect from the municipalities. The Municipal Money portal has been an additional and very creative way to showcase our efforts.
My heart beats strongly for education, and while I was teaching, I was always on the lookout for ways to explain the work to my students. Finding ways to guide citizens to ask the right questions when engaging with the data and then assisting them to answer is a real bonus of this project.
The lockdown period aided us in putting together a series of webinars which were well attended. The numbers in attendance were in part since the webinars were presented by extremely experienced managers from the Local, Provincial and National government spheres. The topics covered were presented in a non-technical manner. Still, the messages were apparent, even though the local government environment is complex.
What are you looking forward to in the next phase of MM? What do you hope for this project? I am very excited about the launch of the new revamped Municipal Money. I hope that the added features and educational videos will guide citizens to explore more local government stories. My hope for Municipal Money is that the portal will remain a world leader in openness and transparency. The portal will also continue to lead citizens to ask the right questions and find the correct answers.
JD Bothma works for OpenUp as a senior developer.
JD, what is your role on the project? I helped build the original Municipal Money. I have been helping to make the site even easier to use. Also, to make it guide people even better to ask the right questions and learn things they can use to better their municipality.
What have been the highlights for you about Municipal Money? The highlight for me is when I heard a user say "I didn't know it worked that way! It's evident how municipalities are supposed to work. We forget that we can expect service delivery!"
What are you looking forward to in the next phase of MM? What do you hope for this project? I look forward to seeing more people take what they find and learn on Municipal Money and use it. Use it to help and demand that their ward councillors use their power to improve their municipality.
I look forward to the local government elections, where the leadership of the past can be scrutinized