Even Cape Town’s unpleasant side has a certain class. “Could you spare a few coins? I haven’t had anything to eat for two days,” a young man says to me. He reveals his name as Andy, and his exquisite politeness contrasts sharply with the filthy clothes he is wearing. This gaunt figure stands before me and begs for a little money so he can buy a few slices of dried bread.
Andy has approached me in Long Street, just a few yards from the elegant luxury hotel Pepper Club. In this quarter right in the heart of the city, where businesspeople rub shoulders with up-and-coming artists, the homeless, and backpackers, the contradictions of Cape Town really are tangible. At the same time, you can feel the city’s vitality here most intensely. Even on a weekday, the clubs don’t close until the small hours. Andy doesn’t care. He disappears around the next corner with a few rands.
Cape Town: a city of contrasts
Quality of life and poverty go hand-in-hand in perhaps the world’s most beautiful city. Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson makes no secret of these problems. Unemployment, AIDS, tuberculosis, drugs, and criminality form an explosive mixture and pose a permanent challenge. That’s why the population has a great need for security and why visitors should similarly exercise caution as they would do when entering any foreign city.
On the other hand, there is a great deal of tolerance between communities, whether on the basis of race or religion. “We’ve learnt to live together,” says Neilson. Simultaneously, more and more global companies are settling in the region. In particular, the service industry values the population’s language skills and is opening an increasing number of call centers, Neilson explains. Developing the local communication infrastructure is therefore high up his list of priorities. Energy supply, education, environmental protection, and transport are other areas in which the administration is specifically investing. If Cape Town wants to win the competition for labor and talent, it needs to increase its attractiveness for both the industry and its citizens. The international, highly-educated top talents have their pick of where they want to work in the future.
Cape Town’s broad ERP strategy
Behind an excellent location there is usually a first-class IT infrastructure. “Deploying technology makes organizational changes possible,” says André Stelzner, long-time chief information officer at the City of Cape Town. And Stelzner takes a special approach: he and his team pursue a broad ERP strategy that avoids system modifications and creatively exploits the opportunities of the applications. “I don’t need to implement an entire ERP system if I only want to use financials functions,” Stelzner explains. As a result, Cape Town is a major SAP customer. The city’s SAP system maps around 450 end-to-end business processes. These include transactions in financials, HR, logistics, facility management, space management, and reporting – to name but a few. And the real estate module is also used, for example, to manage the graves in Cape Town’s cemeteries.
In the years immediately after the SAP implementation, the City of Cape Town mainly used the back office functions to optimize its internal business processes. But now, ever more services for citizens are being enhanced and introduced. Of course, the regulatory bodies have to be convinced that the IT system will be profitable, Stelzner says. More transparency and cost control, more streamlined processes in administration, plus a return on investment are necessary to justify future investments in IT. And in a city where many people don’t have a roof over their heads, it is even more important to explain why so much money is being spent “on computers.” But, as Stelzner stresses, “A citizen-centered administration must always ensure that these changes benefit society and individuals.”
A core element of Cape Town’s citizen services is the city’s central call center, which runs on SAP Customer Relationship Management (SAP CRM). Each citizen has their own data record in the system, which contains all the relevant information. According to Stelzner, the objective is to gain a comprehensive view of each citizen so that suitable services can then be offered to them. The introduction of toll-free hotlines to the call center makes it easier for citizens to contact the city administration. Customers can be served in several languages. Every year, the employees process around 1.2 million calls. Of course, it’s also possible to contact the city administration through social media such as Facebook.
Power to the people: city calls citizens to save energy
Stelzner views the city as having a give-and-take relationship with its citizens, although the administration always has to use supporting measures to convince people. He says, “We need a change in behavior. One day we’ll have no water and no electricity. That’s not a distant threat, but a real scenario.” That’s why Cape Town’s homepage includes many tips for saving energy. At the same time, using posters that read “Save,” the city calls upon the population to save electricity – otherwise power has to be limited over certain periods.
To control the power supply better in the future, the city has taken a number of steps, including implementing SAP Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Integration for Utilities. On the one hand, this enables the city administration to read electricity consumption remotely, which is cost-efficient. On the other hand, it can offer companies and households individual price models, depending on their user behavior: smart metering for the smart city, to balance out supply and demand.
Next page: Smart metering for the smart city
In terms of waste disposal, Cape Town also wants to tread new paths and reward those who create less waste. There are plans for the waste collection and disposal fee to be based on quantity, with SAP-controlled RFID tags used to manage the system. Furthermore, the city has launched a number of e-services. This is where citizens pay certain fees online or use the Internet to report road damage or defective street lighting. And if you’ve lost your family pet, a special database will help you become reunited with it.
SAP HANA to help city firefighters
Stelzner recently licensed SAP software for security so that Cape Town can react faster regarding this sensitive issue. The first step involved integrating incident management into the standardized SAP platform. On a related note, Stelzner has great expectations as far as the opportunities of real-time computing are concerned. “In the future, SAP HANA will no doubt play a role,” he says and he gives an example: before firefighters enter a burning house, they will have the most up-to-date building plans from the SAP building management module and will know how the team should best tackle the blaze.
And so Cape Town is striking up a new beat, and shifting from its old role as a supply station for ships to maybe the most progressive, citizen-centric city on the African continent.
Next page: Cape Town – the Mother City
About Cape Town
Cape Town was founded on April 6, 1652, when the trade commissioner Jan van Riebeeck, who was sailing on a ship belonging to the Dutch East India Company, stopped at Table Bay and, the following day, raised the Dutch flag. The trading post quickly became one of the first metropolitan areas of the colonial period: It represented a safe port for mariners sailing between Europe and Asia, and was also known as the “Tavern of the Seas.” Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest city and is also fondly referred to as the “Mother City” because – according to its witty inhabitants – “it takes nine months for anything to happen.” Currently, its population is around 3.7 million. Cape Town’s share of the country’s gross national product is almost 16%.
This piece is based on an article that first appeared on SAP Milestones