By Jessie Taylor
A new digital system is set to reduce queueing time at the Department of Home Affairs offices and bolster the Department’s service delivery. The Department has started a pilot project with a new e-booking system, which will allow citizens to book their visits to specific Home Affairs branches.
Should this pilot be successful, it will give citizens improved access to the Department’s essential services. More than 90% of South Africans have access to smartphones, meaning that most of the country will now be able to benefit from the new digital programme.
Piloting a mobile approach
The Department’s new e-booking pilot forms part of a greater push to increase digitisation within Home Affairs. This will include updating ageing equipment and improving network connectivity, both in terms of internet speed and infrastructure.
Home Affairs will also be implementing a range of new technology, such as the e-booking system. The pilot is currently running at a selection of high-volume offices around the country and is expected to significantly reduce queuing at these branches. It includes options to book an appointment at a selected home affairs branch in each province during a specified time.
The e-booking system has been integrated with the national population register and each slot will be booked using the client’s ID number. This will act as a safeguard against agents illegally blocking slots and selling them.
The long-term plan will see the e-booking system rolled out through a mobile app, but for now, it is running on the Department’s website. To make a booking, clients will be required to enter personal details such as their ID number, full name, cellphone number and email address. After these details have been confirmed against the population register, users will be able to select a branch.
The branches currently forming part of the programme are:
- Pretoria (Gauteng)
- Akasia (Gauteng)
- Tongaat (KwaZulu-Natal)
- Ndwedwe (KwaZulu-Natal)
- Cape Town (Western Cape)
- Paarl (Western Cape)
- Wynberg (Western Cape)
- Belville (Western Cape)
During the pilot, clients will only be able to book a slot for applications and renewals of ID cards and passports. Booking to collect outstanding documents are also available under the e-booking pilot.
The aim of the system is to cut down queuing times at front offices and prevent corrupt activity associated with blocking and selling time slots.
A future in digital
The long lines at Home Affairs offices have been exacerbated by unpredictable walk-ins and the high number of clients requiring service. These clients are often met with limited staff availability in small offices, who are hampered by slow and manual processes. Digital processes are often offline due to system instability.
The strategy to improve service delivery will include moving the registration of births and deaths to health facilities, and the use of mobile trucks to capture school pupils’ details.
Championing the move to digitisation is Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi was appointed as Minister of Home Affairs from 30 May 2019. He took up the appointment after serving as the Minister of Health between May 2014 and May 2019. He had filled a position in the Limpopo Provincial Legislature from 1994 to 2009. These included MEC for Education, Transport and Agriculture.
He is a member of the ANC National Executive Committee.
Prior to democracy, Minister Motsoaledi served as a Chairperson of the Sekhukhune Advice Office from 1986 to 1994, Chairperson of Hlahlolanang Health and Nutrition Education Project in 1989, Deputy Chairperson of the African National Congress (ANC) in the then Northern Transvaal and Head of the ANC Elections Commission for Limpopo in 1994.
Minister Motsoaledi holds a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from the University of Natal.
Digitisation will play a key role in the Department’s strategy in the future, Minister Motsoaledi believes.
“The Department of Home Affairs acknowledges the adoption of digital transformation and the implementation of ICT technologies that enhance service delivery channels. That’s why there are current e-modernisation projects in place and an e-home affairs digital channel,” says Minister Motsoaledi.
Part of this focus on digitisation is the rollout of the second phase of the government’s SA Connect project. This project provides 100Mbps broadband links to high-demand government facilities such as Home Affairs.
The Department has also installed a live capture system to several bank branches, where information can be captured for ID card and passport applications. This partnership is expected to be expanded this year beyond the current 25 branches offering the service. This is likely to be increased to 70 branches, says Minister Motsoaledi.
“Most people who are well-to-do have bank accounts (and) should not come to Home Affairs offices. We want to increase the (banking rollout) very fast so that most South Africans can get their ID or passports through the bank,” he says.
All of South Africa’s biggest banks – with the exception of Capitec – offer the Home Affairs service at a handful of their branches.