South African disaster management framework: assessing the status and dynamics of establishing information management and communication systems in provinces
South Africa is suffering from a magnitude of increasing human and weather-induced hazards such as drought, diseases, water shortage, urban-flooding, coastal flooding, wildfires, social unrest, and storms. In turn, these hazards instigate devastating social, economic, environmental, physical, political instability and devastating impacts. Due to increased hazards, disaster management activities have gained momentum. Activities such as preparedness, prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery, require up-to-date reliable data, properly managed information, and organised communication systems. In building community resilience, the disaster management field can, thus, not avoid emerging information, communication and technological developments. In various ways, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is making enormous waves and can aid risk reduction to build resilience. Considering the above, the need for reliable data to manage disasters influenced the research into investigating the information management and communication systems in the South African Provincial Disaster Management Centres (PDMC). Additionally, the research into the status quo of the PDMCs and the dynamics surrounding the establishment of these systems added value to the study investigation. The South African Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 (as amended, Act 16 of 2015) (DMA), the National Disaster Management Framework of 2005 (NDMF), and international agreements like the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) stress the importance of information management and communication systems for effective disaster management. This study was anchored in the constructivist philosophical worldview that integrates well with the mixed-methods approach. Questionnaires that allowed for semi-structured interviews during administration and an observational walk comprising of photo-taking at the Centres, contributed immensely to the empirical evidence. The study was exploratory in nature because the South African disaster information management and communication systems have not been studied more clearly. A literary study was conducted to explore information and communication-related legislation, good practices, as well as asserting the significant link between disaster risk governance and management of information as the key to successful disaster management. An in-depth literature review, together with the comparative analysis of the Stakeholder Theory, Model of an Integrated Information Management and Communication System for Disaster Risk Management, the Information and Knowledge Management for Disaster Risk Reduction Framework and the Model of Policy Implementation Process, led to an empirical inquiry into the disaster risk governance of the South African National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC), as well as the nine PDMCs. Following the mixed-method approach, a field study comprised a face-to-face administering (interview style) of a closed and open-ended questionnaire, allowing the respondent to discuss and comment on each question posed. The key informants comprised mainly of the heads of the Centres and deputy or assistant directors from each directorate in the Centre. Using a thematic analytic approach, the empirical data were analysed against themes derived from the research questions and literature review. The data were then presented in a narrative report chapter, comprising of pictures from the observational walk-about at the Centres. A descriptive analysis of the quantitative findings entailing summarising and finding certain patterns was presented. Both the qualitative and quantitative findings were presented sequentially. Visits to the PDMCs revealed that integrated information management and communication systems were not established, including the NDMC. In an era where technology is increasing in speed, breadth, and depth, the study found disaster management officials collecting information informally without a formal methodology, storing information on personal computers and limited information dissemination methods like emails, as the main platform. The only systems developed since the promulgation of the DMA and the NDMF are fragmented and reactive in nature. The systems were mainly for reporting incidents contradicting the proactive approach mandated by the DMA and the NDMF. The study also confirmed that the governments idealised policy is not being implemented as expected by the government. The implementing institutions are under-capacitated in terms of human resources, irrelevant and inadequate qualifications and infrastructure. Also, politicians are not in full support or do not comprehend the disaster management function. Therefore resulting in the low prioritisation of the investments into integrated systems. Despite the dynamic setbacks, information management and communication systems remain a pivotal component to disaster management. Hence, the study recommends the national government takes the lead in establishing a uniform and integrated system that cascades down to the lower spheres of government. Based on the in-depth literature review and empirical findings, the study proposed a holistic and effective integrated framework to guide the PDMCs in developing, managing and comprehending the components of information management and communication systems. Also, the Framework guides in understanding the systems’ support for each key performance area and enablers as prescribed in the NDMF. Through strategic disaster risk governance recommendations, the study ensured the prioritisation and placement of information, its management, and dissemination at the epicentre of disaster management operations. Disaster management practitioners need to start thinking creatively, find new methods to build resilience and accept some of the latest developments in science and technology that can provide disaster management solutions. Subsequently, good stakeholder relations and good governance practice might help lessen disaster impacts and improve the response to the earlier mentioned devastations. The main recommendation for further studies included a critical analysis of an established fully functional and integrated disaster information management and communication system. As well as determining the effects of this system on disaster risk reduction in communities.
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