Next to the local grocery store around my neighborhood is a post office, and sometimes when I go there on a specific day of the month I will find a long and winding queue of generally tired and not-so-happy people. It took me a while during 2020 to finally figure out and hear that this was a queue of people who are collecting their R350-a-month payment from South Africa's government as part of the "Special COVID-19 Social Relief of Distress" relief scheme (or better known as the COVID-19 Social Grant).
Once you consider that the relief grant is given to unemployed South Africans who are receiving no other form of income, relief, or unemployment insurance, you start to realize that R350 a month (about $23) is not an amount of money anyone can live on. Nevermind the fact that part of it goes towards transport to collect the money.
For this issue of the iAfrikan Daily Brief, I am more concerned about why people have to spend money they don't have to travel to post-offices to collect R350 every month.
I ask this question because, upon further investigation, it turns out that the whole process is supposed to be digital without the need for people to queue at post offices.
Registration is supposed to be done via an option of WhatsApp, USSD, E-mail, Call Center IVR, or a website. Once registered via any of these channels, qualifying unemployed applicants can choose to receive the money via a bank account or money transfer, both options have fees associated with them.
There's another option for people without bank accounts or who don't want to receive the money via money transfer, they can opt to collect the money at a post office. This is where problems in digitizing this process creep in.
For a person to go to the post office and collect their R350, they need to wait to receive an SMS telling them to do so. A quick chat with some of the people in the queue suggests that some of them go days and weeks without even receiving an SMS confirming that their application for relief was approved.
On the other hand, from what some of them said, some don't receive an SMS telling them when to collect their R350. As such, they go to the post office to check if their relief grant is ready for collection thus adding to the queues. This is because apparently if you miss collecting it in one month, it doesn't accumulate, the next month you only receive R350, not R700.
I could go on highlighting how this whole digitizing process is failing, but what's important is that in this day and age, people shouldn't be queueing to collect social relief payments. Not with the number of fintech companies around that government can partner with.
Today's top stories.
🔒 For several years, South African Revenue Services (SARS) has been using Adobe Flash on its online tax forms. Unfortunately for them, Flash has had a security flaw for many years yet they persisted in using it. Now, after years of people complaining about this, they have decided that the solution is to develop and roll-out their web-browser that only connects to the SARS website. Link
💳 Fintech continues to be an exciting space in South Africa, despite the massive setbacks in the global economy during 2020. Successful fintech addresses opportunities and this space will be one to watch in South Africa during 2021 as the world moves towards more convenient money systems. Dominique Collett of AlphaCode, a Fintech accelerator by Rand Merchant Investments, shares her thoughts. Link
⚖️ Kenya's Ministry of Information, Communication, and Technology has partnered with the Judiciary to digitize court records in the East African country. This digital transformation is aimed at improving access to the country's Justice system and ensuring it still functions given some of the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Link
🗄️ Since the COVID-19 pandemic has been underway, Kenya has been making efforts to digitize its Justice system. This includes the announcement that from 1 July 2020 all legal cases in Nairobi Courts will be required to file electronically. Known as the Judiciary's Electronic Filing System, the electronic filing system is to allow for uploading of the required legal documents, and assessment of court fees by Law Society of Kenya members, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Police and the public. Link
📵 Despite efforts by Kenya's government to take Justice online, the Law Society of Kenya has complained that taking Justice online is just not working. Link
🎈 As engineers at Loon wrap up and move on to other projects, we are hopeful that the world is one step closer to helping the people in many parts of the world get affordable internet. Although they tried, Loon is yet another failed attempt towards digital inclusion. Link
It's time government officials stopped waxing lyrical about "4IR" and instead got down to the business of understanding why some of their digital transformation efforts are not working for citizens. (Tweet this | Share on WhatsApp)
Subcribe to our Daily Brief newsletterShare this via:
Insights and analysis into how business and technology impact Africa. We promise to leave you smarter and asking the right questions every time after you read it. Sent out every Monday to Friday.