By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor

Ray Nkonyeni Municipality in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has turned to technology to streamline its communication, dispatch and data transmission processes.

To achieve this, the municipality partnered with Chinese manufacturer Hytera Communications. With 160 subsidiaries across the globe, including SA, Hytera provides communications technologies and solutions with voice, video and data capabilities.

According to Hytera, the KZN municipality is now using its digital call taking and handling system, to report and record crimes and emergencies.

At Ray Nkonyeni, the Hytera system replaces paper documents, making it easier for citizens to report crimes, and for the police and other authorities to process incidents, and ultimately solve crimes.

Hytera notes that previously, people wishing to report a crime would either have to visit the municipal government office in person, or make a telephone call. The office clerks then recorded the crime information on paper documents, which would make it hard to locate and were occasionally lost.

In terms of the new system, Hytera reveals it aims to improve the safety of citizens and the efficiency of emergency services, providing timeline-based tracking and recording of incidents, clear and easy access to documents and reports (including historical cases tracking and management), generate call and incident statistics, as well as identify where further improvements can be made.

Ken Lin, deputy director of Hytera Southern Africa, says: “We are delighted to welcome another African municipal customer to the Hytera family. Through our partnership with Ray Nkonyeni Municipality, we are using technology to improve life for both citizens and police employees.”

Selwyn Naidoo, chief manager of the fire, rescue and disaster department of Ray Nkonyeni, adds: “We are very happy to use the Hytera smart call-taking and handling system. It really helps us to improve the efficiency of working internally and dealing with all the incidents from the municipality.”

Speaking to ITWeb on the sidelines of the Africa Tech Festival 2022 event in Cape Town this week, Ray Hesse, head of pre-sales in Africa for Hytera, explained that one of the pain-points faced by Ray Nkonyeni was that it struggled to dispatch firefighters, EMS and traffic police timeously.

The main cause of this is that firefighters, EMS and traffic police are on different communications platforms, revealed Hesse. “Ray Nkonyeni is one of the first projects we’ve finalised – we’ve got a lot of projects that are in deployment cycle. They required an automated dispatching and call-taking functionality because it was paper.

“Somebody would phone the call centre and they would write that this person called, report that there is a fire at their house, etc.

“At Ray Nkonyeni, we set up our call-taking facility, which is call centre management software, as well as an incident management platform. Its power is that it can take multiple alarms coming in – whether it’s a fire alarm, etc.”

The status quo before the system was that the municipality would have to first make a call to the fire department chief or EMS, for example, to find out what field assets or first responders are available in the field.

“This system allows you, within seconds, to ascertain who to dispatch and it can recommend the closest one.

“The Ray Nkonyeni call-taking is a streamlined process. Now, a person can phone in, an IOT alarm can be triggered, the incident is populated automatically – eliminating the paper trail – thus streamlining the entire process.

“We’ve created [decreased] their dispatching time from between 10 to 15 minutes to less than two minutes. This also reduces call drops or calls missed because they now have the ability to handle more incoming calls. The other smart thing about the system is that it can automatically merge similar or the exact same calls.

“Often if there’s an accident there are multiple call alarms coming in about the same incident. In this case, you don’t want to dispatch two responses, so the system automatically merges the two.”

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