Housing Project

Posted in Access to Information


Proactive Disclosure, Housing Lists, Community Engagement, City of Cape Town, Dido Valley Development


With funding from the Ford Foundation, in 2011 ODAC has embarked on an exciting and progressive project that aims to, through a close working relationship with one specific community, proactively make available housing information. The project will enable us to take our work on the right to know and the right to access to housing into a new dimension – accessing information on housing projects on cell phone platforms, and using information directly to locate access and advocacy work in communities.


Access to information in South Africa is entrenched both within the Constitution, as well as the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2000. Despite this, many communities have as yet been unable to translate their democratic gains into being able to hold local government accountable for their successes and failures. Rather than engage in the processes which are apparently open to them in order to express their frustration, communities have taken to engaging to a variety of other ways of expressing frustration of political processes (particularly in relation to service deliver and housing issues), as exemplified in the proliferation of service delivery protests.

Work around using access to information at community level is clearly taking hold, but we need to find new and innovative ways to bring information to communities, faster and in ways which allow better, more effective mobilisation. Cell phone technology may provide one new way forward. It's easier and faster to put in cellular towers in rural and remote areas than to put in land lines, and as a result, cellular use is exploding...mobile phone use already exceeds land line use in India, and by 2007, 150 million out of the 200 million phone lines there will be cellular. There are similar examples from all over the world - and within South Africa, cell phone usage is just as significant.
Following from these realizations, a site to test our potential solution had to be established. ODAC identified the Dido Valley Project in Simonstown as the location for the project - and the main beneficiaries of that project will be the Red Hill Community.

The system

The system we have identified to solve our perceived problem will coordinate the proactive disclosure of housing development information between the City and the Red Hill Community (and potentially other interested parties) using cell phone messaging (mainly USSD messaging to account for non-smart phone users).

The tool, at its most basic, is required to be a “cell phone accessible database of projects, and populated by information relating to projects which is accessible by cell phone”.

The underlying goal is to allow access to housing list information, in particular. More broadly though, it seeks to better facilitate communications in relation to housing-related information between the state and potential beneficiaries. The role of the Open Democracy Advice Centre is to facilitate this dialogue and provide the electronic platform solution for this engagement. There are thus two main functions of the system - broadcasting information and receiving relevant queries. 

We envision a two-way communication path in the belief that information cannot be truly meaningful, if community members are not given a way to engage critically with that information.

User needs

It is fundamental throughout the project that the user needs of the Red Hill community feed directly, and constantly, with the system development. This requires frequent meetings, field trips and user testings.

Local participation will encompass:
  • Working with ODAC on a campaign to have the information available in a database;
  • Working with the community to encourage accessing of the database;
  • Working with the community to identify how to take forward the demand for housing for those not allocated a slot within a project.

Progress report

»Formal partnership with the Dido Valley Project team established

»Formal relationship with Red Hill Community Steering Community established

»Community engagement held

»IT consultancy identified and contracted

»Functional specifications, reflecting Red Hill site inspections, completed.

»Technical development underway.

»Full-day housing workshop for community organised for 7 October 2013.


Our community partners:

  • Red Hill Community
  • Right2Know Campaign

Other partners: