It is important that we all recognise and acknowledge the role of Innovation as an integral part of our thinking and doing things in the public sector. While not a silver bullet, innovation can certainly help tackle numerous challenges such as violence against women and children, combating corruption, providing healthcare and delivering quality education.
Innovation at a global continental and national level.
Anyone that underestimates the role of innovation and its relevance for the survival and development of countries and the advancement of humanity does that at their own peril. Innovation continues to play a pivotal role throughout the globe. This has been brought to the fore by the arrival of the 4th Industrial Revolution which demands that we rethink how we approach things, including service delivery.
It is crucial that as government and the Ministry for the Public Service and Administration in particular through the CPSI, we promote innovation by embracing new technologies and modernise our various systems and processes to meet the needs of people living in South Africa.
According to data from the Global Innovation Index, an international body involved in surveying development around innovation throughout the globe, Switzerland, Sweden, United States, The Netherlands and Canada are world leaders in innovation, followed closely by a number of countries in Asia.
These countries are regarded as part of the advanced world, and they lead in many fields and aspects of life such as health and education. The countries that are ahead within the innovation space invest strongly in research and innovation to advance growth and development.
A Change of mindset to do things differently
As Africans in the sub-Saharan region, we need to learn to move faster and decisively. Importantly, what is required at the level of an individual is a change of mindset – we need to push the boundaries and move beyond our comfort zones.
We need to embrace innovation and avoid being stuck in archaic ways of doing things. We must always be ready to experiment with innovative and advanced ways of delivering services effectively and efficiently to put our country on a developmental trajectory.
We need to work hard to shed the age-old stigma attached to public officials either through their own making or otherwise, where to the public, we are generally known for being forever lethargic, lazy and absent from work. The Batho Pele Principles compel us to show absolute dedication and commitment to serving citizens at all times.
Innovation is also a critical enabler when it comes to the achievement of the 7 priorities of the government as outlined by the President. As public servants we need to explore innovative ways to achieve these priorities. This is precisely the time to be innovative and creative so that we can turn our misfortunes into fortunes.
It is only when we turn against corruption – when we embrace high standards of ethical conduct in the public service that we open up space for innovation.
For our country to realise a complete turnaround, it requires progressive, visionary mentality and a concerted effort to free ourselves of the grips of corruption, siloism and aversion to change. Being part of the global village requires that we ramp up our efforts to be competitive for the sake of South Africans who yearn for a better life.
Therefore, with the commitment to build an effective and efficient public service being a progressive, long-term mandate, it requires a relentless effort to harness and embrace new and latest approaches such as strategic foresight and design thinking to help us accelerate our transformation, growth and development.
We need to consistently revisit our policy and regulatory frameworks to update them to ensure flexibility and ongoing relevance to the present-day reality. This means being innovative and visionary enough to conjure up new solutions and approaches that respond to the prevailing realities.
The task of the CPSI should include coming up with innovative ways of recognising innovation and encourage its application and practice throughout the public service.
The CPSI needs to move beyond recognising innovation by also providing thought-leadership and expertise to drive it. For that to happen, CPSI needs to be better positioned and resourced to make sure that they do their work effectively and efficiently.
It needs to be capacitated to help the public service as a whole to nurture innovators and initiators that would take our country to a higher trajectory in terms of innovation.