Speech delivered by the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Dr. Siyabonga Cwele, MP speaks on the occasion of the SITA e-Government Industry Day
Chairperson and members of the SITA Board,
Members of the Executive Management at the Agency,
Our various stakeholders in the ICT sector,
Ladies and Gentlemen:
We have gathered here today as part of SITA’s E-Government Industry Session engagement with various stakeholders to share amongst other things the strategic, technical and regulatory ideas on the implementation of the E-Government Program which is in line with the National E-Government Strategy and Roadmap. I wish to thank you most sincerely for the invitation to address this gathering and also thank all of you who have graced us with your presence.
We gather just a day after the world joined South Africans in celebrating the International Nelson Mandela Day. A day characterized by selflessness and devotion to society and its people.
To the rest of the world, former President Mandela was a visionary and liberator. To us, he was a father who served as an oasis in a desert of political uncertainty, a radical and militant cadre and comrade of our beloved country. I impress upon you to take this week and dedicate it to others who are less fortunate than you. Former President Mandela devoted his whole life to the course of freedom – we call on you to just dedicate 67 min of your time to the needy and the most vulnerable.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It has been a year since a similar industry session hosted by SITA in Sandton on 15 July 2016. As Government, we value the input we receive from our stakeholders. There has been significant changes since that meeting that deserve the attention of SITA and the industry. Firstly, the National Integrated ICT White Paper was finalised on 28 September 2016. It is now the policy of government. This was followed by the publication of the new ICT BEE Sector Codes which binds all companies, including SITA. The codes are operational and must be observed. The oversight of the functioning of SITA was transferred from the Deputy Minister to Minister in March 2017. In addition, a new board has been appointed to oversee this agency to ensure that it is an efficient organ of State.
Last year SITA informed us that it was seriously putting implementable measures on how to increase the value to the State by leveraging economies of scale and improving service delivery through digitisation and use of technology. If SITA is views as irrelevant by the departments and organs of State that it serves, it may be side-lined.
We were informed that SITA was building internal capacity to deliver IT services for the benefit of citizens we serve. We were informed that the organisation was committing to consolidate and maximise government data centres. SITA committed to upgrading bandwidth and network to be in line with South Africa Connect. We noticed that SITA was spending only 15% of its procurement spend on SMMEs. There was a promise to increase this to 30% and to increase focus on enterprise development.
I to impress upon SITA management and our officials to ensure we don’t succumb to the temptation of having endless consultations but to make sure we implement the outcomes of gatherings such as this one.
I’m informed that we are not doing well in global ICT indexes primarily because of poor e-governance adoption. Currently, we rank 76th on the UN E-Government Survey of 2016.
SITA is our lead agency tasked with the finalisation of our National e-governance strategy and roadmap. The deadline for this strategy was 31 March 2017. This target has not been met and to date has not been completed. This strategy has to be finalised. It is a key strategy that will guide SITA on its mandate. It is a key strategy to make SITA relevant.
Endless consultation are not a substitute to a strategy that should guide new mandate and functioning of SITA if this agency wants to be relevant to this government.
Key elements or principles of the strategy includes the following;
1. Interoperability standards and architecture South Africa must be finalised. We are not focussing on minimal interoperability standards but key interoperability requirements for government systems, networks and solutions. It must be based on neutrality of technology platforms and the promotion of open source software development as dictated by the National ICT White Paper.
2. The second key element is cybersecurity. We are not talking about which solutions we should procure. This talks to ensuring that our systems are secured by design. To enhance this cybersecurity, we need to develop our national electronic identity system as well a legally valid electronic signature system. If we don’t have these, we can’t have security by design. SITA and the industry must focus on the development of a secure data exchange platform and environment. In addition, we must develop a critical mass of cybersecurity experts for the defence of our government information systems. We need to train more people to be expects in cybersecurity. This security by design must include functional model for personal data protection. Without effective and functional personal data protection, we would find our citizens being very reluctant to use our systems. This year, we must come up with clear and implementable plans for a system that is secure by design.
3. We have talked about Electronic Identity System for South Africa. Our reality is that at the moment, Government departments are developing their own electronic identification systems. That is not going to help us. We must have a single electronic identity system. SITA, CSIR and .zaDNA have been tasked must prioritise the development of the Digital Object Architecture for the country. This project can’t be delayed any further.
4. The fourth aspect is the access to the Internet For All South Africa initiative implementation. We have launched this programme. Agencies like SITA must be in the forefront of its implementation. We have partnered with the industry to ensure that broadband networks are effective and in place in all areas.
We are talking about the content which is accessible in all official languages including access by people living with disabilities. Language is key in making content accessible.
We are saying, SITA and all its conference must be driven by driven by a quest for real transformation in regards to SMMEs and young South African innovators. SITA must focus on developing standards and testing centres for devices manufacturing if we are to have localisation. It must work much closer with DTPS and DTI to develop incentives for those localisation programmes.
We must focus on software and applications development and network systems development. It can’t be business as usual. We must transform this industry so that every South African has a chance to participate. Our task is to break monopolies that constrain growth and allow for broader participation of SMMEs.
SITA must drive value for the State in terms of eliminating duplications and increasing economies of scale. It must drive the development of relevant content for our citizen to used digitised services. SITA must lead the development of government data centres and government cloud.
In short SITA must facilitate development of digitally enabled services, connected government department or entities with a specific focus eventually of creating an engaged or digitally interactive citizens. We need to develop a transparent, efficient and capable public servant of the digital age, who subscribes to central policy development and decentralised implementation. We need a new cadre who is always citizen/customer centric in all aspect of policy implementation and service delivery. We need a cadre who prioritises measures that are against the digital divide and removes obstacles rather than create them.
5. Effective government e-portal. It must be available in each of official languages. It must be user-friendly. It must have a single view of the citizen. Always applying the once-only principle which means that citizens and businesses are required to supply the same information only once. It must have website with appealing look and feel as well as feedback functionality. It must never just transfer current services into digitised environment but must involve re-designed business processes for digitised services.
We must learn from other countries with a world class eGovernment platform such as Estonia. I’m mentioning Estonia because it is assuming the Presidency of the European Union.
We must learn from Estonia. SITA must position itself to be the main beneficiary of the partnership with Estonia.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to engage with you and look forward to participating in a constructive and vibrant discussion on how best to implement the eGovernment program in a manner that achieves radical socio-economic transformation to ensure inclusive growth for all South Africans. Our economy is in a technical recession and requires a coordinated action to get everyone to meaningfully contribute to higher levels of growth and investment in SA.
We must begin to deal with structural challenges facing our economy. Our fiscal and monetary policy space is limited. We must deconcentrate or break monopolies that constrain growth.
In this way, we start to make a dent to the persistent unemployment, inequality and poverty. The digital age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution is for innovators. It is the innovators who are going to make us globally competitive. It is for using local technologies to solve most pressing current challenges facing South Africa.
Good luck with your deliberations and thank you and hope you will come up with practical solutions to take SITA forward.
Source: Government of South Africa