As part of its drive to support the policy of South Africa as a developmental state, in which spheres and sectors cooperate and coordinate to realise its development path, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) has identified the need to harness information and communication technologies (ICTs) to make available rigorous spatial and temporal evidence of past, current and possible future development patterns and trends. The DST commissioned the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), to develop an integrated information and modelling platform (IPDM) to support integrated planning, development and service delivery for South Africa.
Although there is reasonable agreement on the nature of the problem of spatial fragmentation and disconnection, there is less agreement on the scale and dimensions of the issue and rate at which it is changing. There is, furthermore, even less agreement on the appropriate solutions. Put simply, should greater emphasis be placed on: (i) enabling the poor to move closer to employment centres (through low cost housing, land and services); (ii) moving economic activity and jobs closer to poor communities (through special business districts, land, infrastructure and premises); and (iii) improving public transport systems to enable poor people to compete more effectively for available economic opportunities?
By 2011 it was widely recognised that one of the weaknesses of the government’s strategy for growth and development since 1994 has been the poor alignment of housing, transport, land-use, economic and environmental policies. In addition, there has been limited awareness in the planning community of the economic and societal outcomes of short-term, ad hoc decisions. This has complicated efforts to address inherited spatial inequalities and to promote more integrated and vibrant settlements. In the meantime, the population and economic geography of the country has been changing, with new patterns of human settlement and movement emerging, and new business locations appearing. As yet, there is little consolidated knowledge or understanding of how South Africa functions as a space, and how these spatial dynamics are unfolding over time.
In recent years spatial policy and planning have been somewhat marginalised by sectoral planning at national and provincial levels, and by Integrated Development Plans (IDPs) (and associated budgets) at municipal level. Yet it is at the local level that the need and opportunities for spatial integration are most apparent, and where the scope for coordinated, multi-dimensional responses to the complex challenges faced is greatest. Within towns and cities the linkages between activities and infrastructure are strongest because this is the scale at which things really come together. Such places are the locus of labour, land and housing markets, supply chains, transport networks, information flows and markets for many products and services. These interactions create important spill overs or externalities - generally ignored by sectoral policies - but which have a significant bearing on productivity and growth. These effects can be positive, if places function well, or detrimental, if places are not functioning well (malfunctioning in some respects). Localities also have distinct needs and potential which require specific plans and policies that differ from those of other localities. The opportunities now exist to address these aspects actively within SDFs under the long awaited implementation of SPLUMA, 2015.
The IPDM as multi-year, multi-phase project focused primarily on developing three evidence-based technology platforms to support planning at various scales and a range of planning horizons namely:
Regional Spatial Profiler
The Regional Profiler contained a collection of maps and tables that users can view and download freely from a web-based portal (http://stepsa.org/). It was aimed at strengthening regional-scale spatial planning by providing accessible and comparable spatial information (of current and past trends) to planning practitioners in government.
Urban Spatial Simulator
The focus of this project component was to develop and implement an open-source urban simulation platform within participating metro’s for the modelling of a series of possible spatial urban growth patterns over a 30-year period within the context of a range of economic, demographic and spatial planning policy scenarios. The implications of these will be assessed for long-term planning, policy-making and infrastructure investment decisions in the major metropolitan regions of South Africa.
The Housing and Travel Demand Profiles
This component of the project was supposed to produce delivery demand tools to support the preparation of the housing and transport chapters of municipal Integrated Development Plans (IDPs). It used household survey-based estimates of local housing and transport demand, and analyses of patterns of national population flows within and between regions within the major migration corridors of South Africa. These tools were aimed at allowing municipal planners to: (i) identify their different types of settlements with their needs profiles, and (ii) to access appropriate estimates of housing and infrastructure demand, so as to support housing and transport chapters in municipal IDPs.
The evidence generated by the three platforms was since 2012 being distributed via a web-based portal (http://stepsa.org/) to ensure that users can easily find and download relevant information to better inform their planning processes.
In addition, the project involved end-users in the processes of developing, testing and applying the various components of the IPDM platform by establishing ‘living laboratory processes’ (comprising a series of interactive work sessions with end-users in real-life contexts).
Furthermore, a series of dissemination, technology-transfer and capacity-building initiatives were rolled out for the uptake, use and application of the evidence in planning processes. These include general awareness-raising and human capability development. The latter component’s focus and contribution can be summarised as:
i. Internship Programme
The overall purpose of the Internship Programme was to build the capacity of interns to be employed in the public sector and to do better integrated development planning and to equip them in the use and application of relevant planning support systems in this context. Specific objectives which informed the design of the Programme were to:
The IPDM Internship Programme succeeded in equipping 7 interns (graduates in Geography, Development Planning, Town and Regional Planning, Geographic Information Systems/Geomatics, or allied disciplines) to be employed in the public sector and to do better integrated development planning in their future professional careers. Five interns were successful in finding full-time employment either during, or on conclusion of, their contracts. One intern decided to pursue full time studies towards obtaining her Master degree on conclusion of her contract. One intern found full time employment in a national government department one year after the conclusion of her internship contract.
There was an emphasis on making skills training available as well as maximising the exposure and experience that a project such as the IPDM offers to new graduates. On-the-job training was an important component of the Internship Programme and interns were thus expected to actively contribute to project-related work.
Interns found the programme an intensive and stimulating experience. The programme was geared around maximising the benefits of having a group of interns - including group tasks and mutual learning within the group. It also recognised that there is vast experience, skills and knowledge amongst Planning Support System Competency Area staff and more broadly within CSIR and HSRC from which the interns could benefit.
Key challenges of running such an internship programme include:
Conclusion, Implications and Recommendations
The Internship Programme made significant strides towards the envisaged outcome of making a contribution in increasing the national skills base and building a cadre of skilled integrated planning and development practitioners in South Africa. It seems to be one of the few programmes of its type in South Africa in which funding has been dedicated within a specific project for a group of interns to engage in project-related work and receive skills training and mentoring as part of their personalised career development. In this respect, DST as funder should be congratulated for its innovation and ground-breaking approaches to increasing the national skills base. It is an example where the interns engaged in an internship that has equipped them for their future professional careers and placed them in an excellent position to contribute to intergovernmental planning in South Africa.
If any such programme is implemented in the future, funding and human resources should be dedicated to set up a more formal process of tracking of future progress of interns. Also more detailed evaluation processes should be embarked upon with detailed questionnaires and analysis of results being undertaken.
ii. Studentship Programme
Work Stream Objectives
The overall purpose of the Studentship Programme was to support the capacity building of students, as well as the quality of graduate and post-graduate research conducted in the field of integrated development planning. Specific objectives which informed the design of the Studentship Programme were to:
The Studentship Programme’s expected outcome was to make a contribution towards increasing the national skills base and building a cadre of skilled integrated planning and development practitioners in South Africa. The Programme did this by ensuring that as a direct output of the Programme, seventeen post-graduate students had the funding available to complete their Master’s degrees (Six students completed their Master’s by the conclusion of the programme and nine were envisaged to complete them by December 2011). Along with the funding, the IDPM studentship programme provided the participating students with tools, knowledge and an understanding of the technology to be able to make a contribution towards increasing the national skills base and building a cadre of skilled integrated planning and development practitioners in South Africa.
In addition to this outcome, the students were afforded the opportunity of being actively involved in Living Lab work-sessions that provided hands-on knowledge of integrated planning and development practices as well as the working of district and metropolitan municipalities. These interactions provided the students an excellent opportunity to network with possible future employers. The exposure, training and experience gained by the students during their Studentship Programme is an invaluable outcome of the Programme. It was targeted at enabling them to use their post-graduate qualification to effectively participate in any given planning career and to positively contribute to addressing the planning challenges facing South Africa.
Conclusion, Implications and Recommendations
A structured programme in which students understand their responsibilities and have a clear sense of the benefits of it for their future career development is vital. Important in achieving this is an effective introduction to the Programme, which, in this case, included not only an introduction to the Integrated Development Planning arena, but an overview into the systems behind the project and training in GIS as well as an introduction to the staff within the PSS programme, HSRC and DST.
This Studentship Programme made significant strides towards the envisaged outcome of making a contribution in increasing the national skills base and building a cadre of skilled integrated planning and development practitioners in South Africa.
In any such Programmes to be planned in the future, emphasis must be placed on aligning the project implementation phase with the appointments of the students, thereby alleviating the issue of delays due to finalizing project management arrangements and structures which preclude students from being involved in actual project content development. Cognisance of students university programme is important as this enables an effective work-plan to be designed for the students, thereby ensuring co-operation from the students resulting in critical project goals being achieved. Involving the university/ planning schools in projects that offer studentships has proved to be beneficial, not only with the appointment process of the students, but also as a professional sounding board and advice offered as part of the Studentship Programme.
iii. Short Courses
A series of dissemination, technology-transfer and capacity-building initiatives was designed for the uptake, use and application of the spatial evidence-base in planning processes. Key among these initiatives is a three-day course ‘Regional Spatial Analysis as a Basis for Effective Regional Planning’, targeted at building the capacity of public sector planners to develop a shared spatial understanding as a basis to co-ordinate planning investment and implementation in their municipal and provincial spaces.
The Course was specifically aimed at enabling planners to gain value from the Regional Spatial Profiler developed as part of the IPDM project.
The overall purpose of the course was to:
Overall learning outcomes identified for the course were that participants would:
The three-day course was presented on five occasions between December 2010 and March 2011. The development and facilitation of the course was funded by the DST, with the support of the DBSA (in terms of venue and administrative costs). Travel costs of participants were covered by their respective municipalities or provinces. The similar course was offered on five different occasions to ensure that a broad range of participants from various municipalities and provinces could be exposed to the training.
At the conclusion of each course, participants completed a course evaluation form. An analysis of these forms indicated that 93% of the participants found the course ‘Good’ to ‘Excellent’ (an average of 49% finding it ‘Excellent’ and 44% finding it ‘Good’). 64% of all the participants would ‘Highly Recommend’ the course to others considering attending such a course. The majority of the participants (85%) either found the course ‘highly applicable’ (61%) or ‘applicable’ (24%) to their jobs. 97% of participants said that they would use the Course Pack provided in the future in their working environments.
In reflecting back on the overall learning outcomes set for the course, it is clear that participants did, through the practical group exercises, discussion and presentations, gain insight into the value of collaborative regional spatial analysis.
Participants were introduced to key instruments that form part of the intergovernmental planning system and came away with a clearer, or at a least refreshed, understanding of these instruments and how they are supposed to work together. The use of a regional relational planning approach was emphasised and participants began to understand the importance of spatial analysis as a basis for such a regional planning approach.
They engaged in practical assessment exercises in which they were required to critically assess their District SDFs and present suggestions for review and improvement of these SDFs. They expressed the view that this put them in a better position to undertake such critical assessment processes in an on-going way in their municipal/provincial contexts.
There was recognition amongst participants of the value and use of tools for spatial analysis and a growing understanding of how these can be used to strengthen the spatial analysis within their IDPs, SDFs and PGDSs. The participants were given some practical hands-on experience in the use of the Regional Spatial Profiler, as a tool for regional spatial analysis to strengthen regional planning processes in their own strategic planning. Due to bandwidth limitations and the current hosting arrangements of stepSA, the on-line use of the tool was limited to a demonstration and participant’s exploring it after hours but they did get to access a range of the relevant maps and data on CD versions of the Profiler.
Many participants expressed the need for similar training in the future. With the current emphasis in the country on building skills, such capacity building and training initiatives should definitely be up-scaled. It is clear that there is a need and demand for such focused, skills-based content-specific short courses. There also appears to be a willing partner in terms of venue and logistical support in the Vulindlela Training Academy of the DBSA.
The existing ‘Regional Spatial Analysis as a Basis for Effective Regional Planning’ course could be run once or twice in a future phase of the project for those who did not have an opportunity to participate in it in this round. This would not require any further investment in materials development but could, in future, be offered using stepSA online portal.
Other IPDM-related content areas could also form the basis of new short courses. There is scope for targeted courses on the ‘Urban Simulation’ and ‘Housing and Travel Demand Wall Charts’ components of the IPDM project which will not only encourage uptake of these components of the project, but also provide valuable capacity-building for municipalities and provinces. In concluding these aspects of the project, the responsible people should be encouraged to give consideration to developing training material inputs for such courses.
The series of courses, ‘Regional Spatial Analysis as a Basis for Effective Regional Planning’ contributed towards building capacity for regional spatial analysis through the use of the Regional Spatial Profiler. It has also provided useful feedback on the design and use of the Profiler and stepSA.