The South African Government’s State Information and Technology Agency (SITA) this week vowed to review technology solutions offered to address the crippling delivery service crises affecting the country and its citizens.
Judging by the solutions offered at this year’s GovTech 2017 conference in Durban by a range of sectors, SITA will now have its work cut out in assessing and implementing a range of technology-based strategies.
These interventions that were proposed are seen by many observers as the first big step in improving the quality of life in the country and providing citizens with the information they need quickly and with as little fuss as possible
The sectors under the spotlight were Social Protection, which deals with issues of health and housing, the Economic Cluster that focused on the role of SMMEs in the drive to solve urgent delivery shortfalls and Crime Prevention and Justice, which outlined the role that new citizen identifying technologies will have in the coming years.
The plans to improve the workings of Social Protection include:-
· Automating health records, which will enable health providers to track patients’ medical information, wherever they are within the country, thus limiting duplication of records.
· On-line engagement to streamline health care services and housing needs
· To investigate how the many national databases that exist in South Africa can share information quickly and easily with those in charge of delivering services, without jeopardising security and ethics.
To take the process forward, the team leading the solution discussions have agreed to meet on November 17 to formalize the plan of action and to obtain the necessary mandates from SITA.
Crime prevention and justice agencies which are often on the receiving end of criticism for service delivery problems and failure to ensure citizen safety will also have to give priority to integration of data.
SITA must work towards collating for storage on a single platform, the information vested by various departments such as education, justice, home affairs, social welfare, police, prisons and revenue services.
The digitization of the National Identity System (NIS) must be speeded up. The NIS is critical to the nation’s security, as is effective immigration management, underpinned both by an effective border management authority as well as the management of entry into, stay in and exit from the country through the system of visa management.
SITA was also told by IT professionals that citizens must be more intensely trained on cyber security to ensure confidential information is not hacked.
SITA will also look at a system that will allow people to soft-lock their credit profiles and personal information in the event they suspect intrusion.
Computer technology that will help police to be a step or two ahead of criminals was also showcased at Govtech.
Delegates witnessed concepts from science fiction materializing in real-life when they were treated to a demonstration of how just one kind of disruptive technology can help fight crime.
A Robocop-like figure showed how police will be able to identify a suspect and assess the threat level within seconds using biometrics and facial recognition.
Reflecting on some of the challenges facing SMMEs in ICT in their interactions with government and the private sector, the two broad grey areas that were identified were access to markets and commercialisation of innovation.
These were broken down into several elements which necessitate a review of the regulatory environment, funding opportunities, skills and capacity for delivery, operating costs and barriers to entry and monitoring and evaluation for impact.
As a catalyst for job creation, SMMEs are seen to be the solution to the country’s unemployment woes and the achievement of the National Development Plan’s objective of creating 11 million jobs by 2030.
Critical to ensuring that this happens, commitments were made to setting SITA standards; making the appropriate amendments to legislation to ensure an enabling environment for SMMEs; fixing the regulatory environment to remove bottlenecks; establish a funding portal; lobbying the private sector to forge meaningful partnerships with SMMEs; developing the skills pool to ensure greater home grown skills for export and matching the expertise of SMMEs in the ICT sector to key opportunities in the marketplace.
An economic sector-specific Indaba to enable greater access to information and collaboration between government departments, SMMEs and Original Equipment Manufacturers was seen as critical to creating an environment conducive for SMMEs to thrive.
Inculcating a culture of entrepreneurship into the ecosystem at an early age will be key to encouraging employment outside the formal sector. Part of the solution was for labs of innovation to be established in each province to enable entrepreneurial activities.
In terms of addressing the high operating costs for SMMEs and enabling access to information at minimal cost, a virtual office and portal for SMMEs was outlined as the solution.