Application of information systems in irregular settlement management and low-cost housing provision

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Information Systems, both paper-based and computer-based, are integral in the management of irregular settlements and the process of delivering low-cost housing in South Africa. An Irregular Settlement can be defined as an area where the 'shacks' have no fixed street address. Due to policies by previous regimes, under whose rule irregular settlements were almost ignored, there is often little or no spatial or socio-economic data available about existing irregular settlements. Thus for the use of the community, or to organisations interested in helping to improve the quality of life of the residents living in these settlements. As a prerequisite to quality of life, the basic need of shelter, along with food, healthcare and education need to be made available. The emphasis today is thus being placed on the provision of low-cost housing. A need thus arises to have up-to-date information about these irregular settlements in order to plan either for the upgrading of the settlement or for the relocation to new low-cost housing developments. Currently mostly paper-based systems are being used in these developments. There are two opportunities where computer-oriented information systems could be used at this time in 1996 and 1997 to assist with the management and upgrading of irregular settlements. The first is the stage of managing an existing irregular settlement; the second is managing the process of housing provision, taking advantage of the project-linked subsidy scheme. Two Cape Town based projects provide case studies for the application of information systems at the two stages identified above. The first is the Marconi Beam 'From Shacks to Houses' project located in Milnerton. The second is the Integrated Services Land Project (iSLP) of the Cape Flats. The Marconi Beam Settlement is an irregular settlement that has been accepted as part of the 'Project-Linked Subsidy Scheme' for the provision of new low-cost housing. Previously only paper-based systems were being used to manage the settlement and its move to the new Joe Slovo Park formal housing development. There was also found to be a lack of appropriate tools and awareness of which technology could be used in the process. Some of the specific application areas in which we were able to provide solutions in Marconi Beam included: ■ the identification of people directly affected by the fire that swept through the settlement in October 1996; ■ the residents who would be affected by the construction of a new road through the one area of the settlement could be identified, facilitating their movement away from the area; and ■ a system of tracking the internal moves of residents was devised by which we were able to maintain a record of the internal movements of residents whilst the system of the lottery was in place. Subsequently, with the use of the Block System, the identification of residents who were required to come in and have their applications for new houses processed, as a result of their spatial location in the settlement, was accomplished. The Indlu Management System, a computer based system, resulted from the need to keep track of, and process, large amounts of socio-economic data in order to speedily process the large number of applicants applying for national housing subsidies. As a result of the implementation of this system, the processing times per applicant have been reduced from 30 minutes to 10 minutes per applicant. The successful use of these systems in the two projects demonstrate that there is thus a definite role to be played in the use of information systems in relation to the management of irregular settlements and the provision of low-cost housing.

Bibliography: pages 105-107.