The urgency around immediate service delivery in South Africa has, to an extent, overtaken government interest in the development of new technologies which could form the basis of new industries to make the country more economically competitive. This is affecting the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
“People [in government] no longer say – who are you? Now they say – can you help us? There is a greater concern for service delivery,” explained CSIR CEO Dr Sibusiso Sibisi to Engineering News Online. This applies especially in the areas of health service provision, infrastructure and water reticulation, among other areas. “These are the challenges people are asking us about.”
“While we cannot afford to neglect either priority, the fact is that service delivery has become a major focus,” he says. Even in the health field the issues today are not solely centred on the development of technologies that will lead to the creation of better drugs, but rather the concern is about a better system of delivering healthcare services.
“We are asked if we can we bring technological thinking to that,” he reports. “Our interpretation is that we are being asked about systems failure, systems challenges and service delivery.”
“So we need systems analysis, to develop improved delivery systems,” highlights Sibisi. “Some of this expertise comes from unexpected competence clusters, such as defence." In fact, the roots of modern systems analysis lie in “operational research” developed and very successfully applied by British scientists during the Second World War for the British armed forces.
“This is an advantage of our [CSIR] multidisciplinary thinking,” he affirms. “We can bring our strong operations or systems research thinking to bear, and we have to do this, as well as doing all the rest – the research and development, developing technologies and new products. We’ll continue to do that." Consequently, in the immediate future, megaprojects for the CSIR are not only going to be predicated on its scientific and technological capabilities, but also on less tangible endeavours, defined in terms of the expertise of the CSIR’s researchers in holistic analyses of challenges – the whole systems view.