A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK FOR GOVERNMENT INFORMATION SERVICE DELIVERY TO DEEP RURAL COMMUNITIES
Promise S. Mvelase1, Nomusa Dlodlo2 , Sizakele Mathaba3 , Salah K. Kabanda4
1, 2,3 Council for Scientific and Industrial Research Meraka Institute
Meiring Naude Road
Telephone: (+27) 012 841 31901,2 / 29483
Fax: (+27) 012 841 4720/4570
E-mail:p[email protected], [email protected] , [email protected]
4 University of Capetown
Faculty of Commerce
Department of Information Systems
Telephone: (+27) 021 650 4253
Fax: (+27) 021 650 4369
E-mail: [email protected]
This paper reports on a study to determine the information requirements of communities in deep rural areas on government services and how this information can be made available to them. The study then proposes an e-government theoretical framework that utilizes deep rural Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) to serve as access points to the government information on services available and needed by this rural community. Initially the study identifies current services provided by the government to the community and measures the levels of satisfaction of the community on the service provision. On the basis of the analysis of community satisfaction levels the gaps in the information needs of the deep rural community are identified. The study also identifies the challenges faced by the community in trying to access these services. A theoretical framework for government information service delivery is then proposed.
This research was conducted as a case study at KwaNongoma rural area in KwaZulu-Natal. To come up with the community needs, recreation needs of three communities of KwaKhangela, KwaMememe and KwaSomkhele were identified. The community needs determination covered the recreational needs of electricity, water, education, housing, financing and health to name but a few.
Deep rural communities in South Africa face the challenges of access to information on government services and access to ICTs that could otherwise deliver this service. Deep rural communities are those which have a local municipality that has small old “resettlement areas” with more than 50% of people living more than 5 kilometers from a tarred road, and more than 25% of the people using water from streams, rivers, dams or rainwater tanks and with very limited choice of services within that municipality 
The role of Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) has not been exhaustively explored by the government in the delivery of information services to the deep rural communities. This research is about the development of a theoretical framework for e-government information service delivery to deep rural communities through SMMEs. E-government can be defined as “information technologies that have the ability to transform relations with citizens, businesses and other arms of government… and can serve a variety of different ends: better delivery of government services to citizens, improved interactions with business and industry, citizen empowerment through access to information, or more efficient government management” .
The project is focused on empowering rural communities and SMMEs to successfully sustain government information services through ICTs. Isolation, lack of adequate ICT infrastructure, and awareness of government services that are available for rural communities, limited opportunities for training, and the speed in which technology is changing all offer special challenges to the rural community and SMMEs. It follows that, for the government to deliver such services it is important to understand the needs of the particular community.
2. RELATED WORK
Traditionally, close rural areas have received significant attention from the government because of their strategic positioning – that of being close to a tarred road and hence experience higher economic growth and reduced illiteracy rates as compared to deep rural communities. On the other hand, deep rural communities are faced with severe problems and their lack of accessing government services exacerbates their condition .
According to South Africa’s development framework, one of the goals for the ICT sector in the country is “to increase the use of ICT as an enabler for socio-economic development with equity” . Various solutions ranging from portal technology to ICT-hubs for rural communities have been adopted to bridge the information gaps. Through portal technology, it is possible for communities to apply a collaborative approach that supports resource sharing; and through ICT-hubs it is possible to have sustainable physical centres with the necessary infrastructure to provide generic services like tele-centres, desktop publishing, business support, application development, training and information services to the community.
However, these technologies are suitable for rural communities and SMMEs who have the capabilities and the knowledge of what information technology capability can do to their livelihoods and businesses respectively. Little attention is paid to deep SMMEs who view e-commerce as ...