Emerging Disruptors, Resilience and Data Strategy at City of Cape Town

Craig Kesson is Executive Director for Corporate Services at the City of Cape Town. He’s also the Chief Resilience Officer and Chief Data Officer. We explore the data-driven strategy at City of Cape Town, overcoming the general fear of data in public departments, emerging disrupters impacting the City and how it will remain resilient, his definition of a Smart City, what he would change if he had a magic wand, his hopes for the City 20 years from now.

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Key Takeaways

Data-driven strategy at City of Cape Town

  • City of Cape Town has always had a strong focus on information systems, sources of data & data management, and utilizing technological innovations.
  • Early 2000’s started taking in ERP systems, laying the foundation for many great achievements.
  • Craig discusses the Open Data Strategy, what it is, how it started, and where it is going.
  • How to use data to unlock it for better decision making.
  • Micro economic tools for better public policy decision making using cost-benefit analyses as an example.

Overcoming the general fear of data in public departments

  • Start using the data and visualisation of data that puts it front and center of decision making.
  • Craig explains how the City of Cape Town tackled this challenge across the organization.
  • Choose the right challenge, identify the right people to help frame the data & visualize it, and put in front of decision-makers on a constant basis.

Emerging disrupters impacting the City and how it will remain Resilient

  • Craig talks about the City’s Resilience strategy looking at what possible futures can look like and how the city can best respond to them.
  • The current pandemic.
  • Water remains a stress in the long term future.
  • Broader climate change that can lead to shock events (rising sea levels and what it means to infrastructure and communities possibly affected)
  • Inequality and unemployment levels.

Craig’s definition of a Smart City

  • He prefers to talk about Smarter Cities as Smart Cites means different things in different contexts.
  • Making sure the systems they use to manage the city effectively link in with other technology platforms that are emerging.
  • Understand what it means to live in a time of technological change, Craig explains more.
  • Citizen and resident at the heart of it.
  • Unlock the economic and social potential of individuals who live in a particular densified place and identify the tools and enablers needed to do it.

What Craig would change if he had a magic wand?

  • Different approaches to how we view the legal and contractual relationship of public-private partnerships.
  • Craig explains why.

Hopes for the City 20 years from now

  • Become more resilient, manages the shocks and stresses right
  • Create more economic opportunities and a more equitable society
  • Greater access to water
  • More suitable energy future
  • Effective urban governance

About Craig Kesson

As Executive Director of Corporate Services my portfolio is broad. 11 directors report to me with a complement of 2,000 staff and total operating budget of US$150 million. I am also the Chief Data Officer and Chief Resilience Officer for the organization. In the latter role I led the strategic responses to the Cape Town water crisis in 2017 and COVID-19 in 2020. Recently, this includes the economic recovery programme for the City. Solving difficult and complex problems that have great impact and making sure solutions are data driven is where I am at my best from identifying the specifics of the problem to crafting practical solutions and managing interdisciplinary teams to execute. As a result, I have been exposed to large scale, large budget programmes with many moving parts.

I have consistently achieved breakthrough results in all areas of my responsibility: policy and strategy, IT for the whole organization, data science and analytics, project / programme / portfolio management, knowledge management, HR and high level OD, communications and customer relations.

Highlights

Revising the outdated and unsuccessful Broadband infrastructure programme that has been presented to Council in June 2020. It proposes a five-year infrastructure build of US$10 million pa capital and US$5 million pa operating expenses.

Full upgrade of core applications IT following thorough business process and technical analysis carried out over a year and internationally benchmarked. The upgrade is valued at around US$1 billion and will rollout over 10 years. It includes a procurement strategy compliant with competition law and public procurement policy.

COVID-19 response that resulted in lowering the infection rate ahead of the curve and long term benefits of a supplementary healthcare system for the City and a new operating model for City management that incorporates new logistics platforms, decision support and financial modelling tools. I am now leading the Recovery Programme, including reviving the local economy through a package of interventions including infrastructure investment and legislative changes to ease doing business in the City.

Water Crisis: I cut my teeth on dealing with this abnormal crisis in 2017 heading the City’s cross divisional response to the once in 500-year drought that afflicted Cape Town. Through data led complex problem solving, gathering the right expertise around me and careful practical implementation we brought water consumption down to unheard of levels for a city of our size and developed a water augmentation scheme that is in rollout.’

Source: https://www.linkedin.com/in/craig-kesson-902368144/

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