Sisulu gives conference an IT wish list

Cape Town: Come up with strategies to secure government information, deliver simpler services to citizens, and develop a vision of a more connected government are among a packet of challenges Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu gave a major Information and Communication Technology (ICT) summit on Tuesday.

Sisulu’s challenge was delivered on the first day of the third annual Government Chief Information Officers (GCIO). Owing to unforeseen circumstances, she was unable to deliver her challenge personally, but it was done on her behalf by Jerry Vilakazi, chairperson of the Board of the South African State Information Technology Agency (Sita).

He said Sisulu expected that when the conference ends on Thursday, it would come up with a clear set of proposals which would include a vision of a connected government and the role of ICT in support of its objectives.

Also wanted was a strategy on the re-engineering and streamlining of business processes which would contribute to government’s strategic objectives by giving citizens, business and other stakeholders more effective services.

The Sisulu wish list also asked for the development of immediate and interim measures to support and secure government’s ICT environment. Others include redefining the ICT model for a single public service, as well as institutional arrangements for an effective team for transformation and the beginning of a secure, cost effective and aligned ICT capability for the State.

Sisulu’s request for ICT security should be seen against the backdrop of recent reports of attacks on government information. Vilakazi said that during the past few days, there have been reports of “hackers attempting to obtain government information”.

These hacking attempts have put more emphasis on data. Vilakazi said the gathering had to align current strategies with the National Development Plan (NDP), which seeks to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.

The readiness of the public sector was also a key pointer to success. Therefore, the attention of the meeting should focus on the public sector ICT strategy, identify skills needed, the impact of governance, and how free and open source software would improve service delivery.

Improving the delivery of public services required appropriate infrastructure, skilled personnel, functional institutional structures and competent leadership. Sita was building a sustainable capacity in the local ICT industry, Vilakazi said.

If the goals of the NDP were to be achieved, ICT had to be used to execute the NDP vision cheaper and quicker.

ICT landscape in SA

Assessing the ICT landscape in South Africa, Vilakazi said the country had fallen behind in the sphere of e-government in the past 10 years. According to a United Nations survey, South Africa has dropped from the 45th position in 2003 to 101 in 2012.

“Yes, our neighbours have also declined, but we have to rise to the challenge and lead the way in the region and in Africa,” Vilakazi said.

E-government has been defined as the use of ICT to allow greater public access to information, facilitate more accessible government services, promote more and efficient government, and make government more accountable to citizens, business and other stakeholders.

Despite SA having slipped on the UN list, e-government still held great promise and strides have been made. Examples include the Department of Home Affairs’ cell phone tracking and notification of ID applications, SARS’ e-filing system, and electoral e-voting.

Of the future of Sita, Vilakzi said it will not be shut down, but will be fixed and will deliver on its mandate of giving a coherent national ICT agenda and implementation mandate.

He sent a “passionate plea accompanied by a strong call that we comply with the law” when it came to procurement. Sita would not hesitate if any deviation from the law occurred.