7 March 2000
GCIS’ corporate strategy emphasises the importance of providing a range of quality services to clients. We do this by either providing a direct, quality service ourselves -- or outsourcing to a service provider or supplier, and managing the quality of the outsourced service. In recent months, GCIS has introduced a range of initiatives that are geared at improving this service delivery process.
1. Improving delivery to the media
GCIS’ Chief Directorate: Government and Media Liaison provides a range of services to the media, many of which have undergone significant improvements in the last 12 months.
These include upgrading Bua News which, as mentioned earlier, provides the media with access to media releases, diaries of public representatives, and news items from government. Bua provides a particularly important service to the community media and, to ensure it meets their needs more adequately, the service has been made available online on the GCIS website from the beginning of February this year.
The Chief Directorate has also installed a three-point video conferencing facility which links media conference facilities in Parliament and the Union Buildings with GCIS head office. This enables GCIS to provide journalists in Pretoria with access to media events taking place in Cape Town, or vice versa.
The past few months have also seen improvements in GCIS’ radio production service for community radio stations. The unit recently put in place a new facility that enables community radio stations to pick up key speeches and events in Parliament and the Union Buildings. This feed can be broadcast live to community stations around the country. This process of bringing Parliament and Government to the people has had a tremendous response from community radio stations – the President’s State of the Nation address, for example, was broadcast live to 20 community stations, and additional stations have expressed an interest in future use of this facility.
All these services are constantly monitored to ensure ongoing improvements. For example, a major review was undertaken after the Presidential Inauguration, involving all those involved in the project as well as some of the 800 journalists who used GCIS’ media liaison facilities. Lessons learnt from this and other projects are factored into future planning, in line with GCIS’ commitment to functioning as a learning organisation.
2. Improving service delivery to government communicators
GCIS provides a particularly important capacity-building function for government communicators. A contract post was created from February to December 1999, with the brief of establishing a national training infrastructure in line with the Comtask recommendations. A range of new initiatives were mapped out and implemented to co-ordinate capacity building.
Among these initiatives were:
- Development of a new curriculum for government communicators: A series of new courses have been put in place, including communications strategy skills, new media skills for government communicators, and a community liaison and PR course.
- Development of a database of training service providers: An electronic database has been produced, with approximately 200 training service providers on record. The database is available, with a search facility, on the GCIS website. Government communicators around the country can now access and search for training service providers to suit their needs, and access programme outlines for the new courses listed above.
- Establishment of training infrastructure required by legislation: Two structures have been established, in line with the new legislative framework for training and development: A standards-generating body for government communications, in line with the requirements of the SA Qualifications Authority; and a quality-assurance body for government communication, called the Interim Government Communications Training Council. Both structures are playing a crucial role in determining and assessing the content of courses for communicators.
The training board initiative has now been incorporated into the CSA, and permanent staff are being appointed to ensure the sustainability of the project.
3. Improving service delivery to client departments
This area has received particular attention in the last few months, and a range of delivery-improvement mechanisms have been put in place to ensure GCIS meets is mandate of providing quality services to clients.
The development of Public Information Points as centres from which government information products can be accessed, for example, is an important strategic development for GCIS. We will endeavour to find resonance in the kind of communication and information government provides at these centres, with the needs of the constituencies they serve.
The planned relaunch of the GCIS Information Resource Centre at Parliament during the first half of this year would be one of the pilots in this regard, and we would be keen to hear feedback from the Members as it unfolds.
The introduction of a project desk under the Deputy CEO has streamlined the briefing process for government departments.
The desk, introduced in December last year, ensures that GCIS deals with requests from client departments in a systematic and efficient manner, and ensures optimal co-ordination of government communication campaigns requiring GCIS’ involvement. All requests that are cross cutting and not line function responsibilities are referred to the Project Desk for attention.
Communication Service Agency
The CSA is the primary interface between GCIS and government departments requiring information products. A range of new mechanisms have been in place in the CSA during the past year to ensure a speedier and more professional range of services. These include:
The establishment of a panel of advertising agencies to handle government advertising campaigns. The establishment of the panel has cut down significantly on the turnaround time for departments, and has been well received by both the industry and clients departments.
In addition, GCIS has appointed two advertising agencies on a year-long contract to handle the bulk-buying of media space. This initiative has consolidated government’s buying power, and enables government to negotiate better discounts from media institutions.
The CSA is establishing a consolidated national distribution network – based on the same principle of bulk-buying -- to ensure government information products reach their target audiences as quickly and as cheaply as possible.
The establishment of a dedicated service provider database for GCIS. This ensures that GCIS’ supplier base is broadened and gives SMMEs greater exposure to government opportunities. Government departments are already using the database to find new printers, advertising agencies, photographers, radio production companies etc.
Streamlined briefing processes: The CSA has instituted a formal briefing process for all work undertaken by its various directorates. This provides a simpler, more logical process for departments requiring information products. The CSA operates on the basis that the clearer the brief, the better the quality of the work produced.
- A range of other quality-control mechanisms is being developed within the CSA to ensure the most effective use of resources. These mechanisms, including a client survey process to measure government departments’ satisfaction with the range of GCIS services, and a more targeted marketing campaign to make government departments aware of the services provided by GCIS.
GCIS is confident that these measures, coupled with the impact assessment tools that are being developed by GCIS’ research team, will ensure that government communicators receive regular feedback on the appropriateness of their information products and are able to bring about constant improvements to their work.
Chris Vick, Chief Director: Communications Service Agency, GCIS