SPEECHES

Address by Mr Jerry Vilakazi, Chairperson of the Board SITA on the occasion of the GITO Council Summit, 28 May 2013

Date: 28 May 2013

Premier of the Western Cape, Ms Helen Zille

Chairman of the GITO Council, Mr Lemmy Chappy

Honourable Members of the Council

Colleagues from the Minister's Portfolio

Sponsors of the Summit

Captains of Industry

Friends

I bring to you greetings from the Minister for the Public Service and Administration, Ms Lindiwe Sisulu as well as the Deputy Minister for the Public Service and Administration, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo who could not be with us today but have graciously requested me to address this auspicious occasion on their behalf in my capacity as the Chairperson of the Board of SITA.

It is a pleasure and an honour to be here at this 3rd Government CIO Summit. The Government CIO Summit has become one of the premier Strategic GITO Council annual events that deal with specific topical issues impacting on the effective functioning of the GITO Council and the use of ICT within the public sector.

The previous Summits had addressed issues of lack of a comprehensive public sector ICT Strategy and public performance index respectively. With the advent of the National Development Plan (NDP), it is suitable that this Summit focus on alignment of current strategies to the NDP.

As the public sector is gearing itself towards the implementation of the NDP, readiness of the public sector is one of the critical success factors. As such, critical issues that this Summit will focus on are: alignment of the Public Sector ICT Strategy, identification of the requirements of the Public Sector ICT Skills, impact of Governance of ICT, e-Government and Free and Open Source Software for improved service delivery.

NDP

In analysing the salient aspects of the NDP, it is clearly apparent that in order to achieve its goals, we must utilize ICT as an enabler to deliver the vision of the NDP, at a lower cost, and quicker. Our national ICT strategy for the govt business must therefore reflect overall alignment to the NDP.

The National Planning Commission (NPC) also acknowledges that the vision 2030 will be realized only if it is supported by a coordinated and enabling ICT strategy and plan. Government as a whole is therefore squarely reliant on ICT's contribution to enhancing service delivery and improving the overall business of the public sector.

Disappointingly, ICT has been underperforming for years yet the cost has been escalating. Accounting Officers have been experiencing torrid times before SCOPA on ICT related matters. I am convinced that it is time to get our house in order.

A single cohesive ICT strategy for the Public Sector is essential to ensure the diffusion of ICTs in all areas of society and the economy.

I am duly informed that the 2011 Summit produced a Framework for the Public Sector ICT Strategy. This framework informed the work that followed to develop the current draft Strategy.

As we gear up to the implementation of the NDP, it becomes paramount that the current draft Strategy is aligned to the NDP.

This Summit is expected review the current draft and to ensure that it is aligned to the NDP.

Public Sector ICT Skills development

The delivery of public services requires appropriate infrastructure, skilled personnel, functioning institutional structures and competent leadership.

The issue of ICT skills development in particular is therefore a key area of focus in our work. We need enterprise architects, business process engineers, security experts, software developers, middleware and database administrators. As government, we have a number of tertiary and research institutions that are carrying out ICT research that must be implemented to improve service delivery. We need also to encourage the production of knowledge on the indigenous topics affecting the South African government in the field of ICT.

It is imperative that the GITO Council takes a lead in determining ICT skills needed to enhance government service delivery on the medium and long-term.

For SITA the current focus of training is to build sustainable capacity for the local ICT landscape. Emphasis is placed on training and learnerships that have course work based on skills needs of the future. The aim is to partner with local ICT companies to customise applications that ensure that we become a key player in the global ICT market.

There is furthermore a need to focus on building ICT capacity in South Africa with clearly defined skills transfer programmes within local companies in a controlled and monitored fashion such that we can ultimately profitably export the skills developed.

The focus should also be on basic ICT training on aspects such as operating systems and productivity applications; this should also include closed and open source tools, depending on skills level and requirements. The training drive should also ensure virtual training capability.

The aim is also to subscribe to an open learning policy which provides access for citizens to basic and universal training. This would include operating systems and productivity suites that are used by most of government and private sector.

The long term benefits of such an approach would be; firstly a more skilled workforce in the public sector which would be better equipped to deal with citizen needs. Furthermore it would facilitate a more capacitated citizen who is able to contribute within our drive towards a knowledge economy.

I would in this regard call upon all of us to work together to capacitate the state to competently deliver improved services to all citizens without compromise due to lack of skills.

Impact of Governance in ICT

The overriding guiding principle of the Public Service Transformation is service for all. However, the reality of South Africa as a 'two nations" (first and second economy) still prevails and more so in the ICT sector.

This reality lessens the technological advantages that would benefit more of the citizens as beneficiaries of the digital inclusion programme. Government must learn to operate across silos and cooperatively as envisaged by the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

The information systems review of governance of ICT in government was conducted by the Auditor General (AG) in 2008/09 and again in 2009/10.

The following applicable recommendations:

  • That a government-wide Governance of ICT Framework should be put in place for the implementation of a national IT strategy to address IT risks, based on defined processes and standards;
  • That a government-wide policy framework and an implementation guideline be developed to address ICT risks; and
  • That the governance of ICT roles and responsibilities are defined and implemented to ensure adequate Public Service ICT enablement.

It pleases me to formally announce that the ICT governance policy framework has been adopted by Cabinet in December 2012 and it is applicable throughout the public sector. It is our hope that the proper implementation policy framework will ensure that qualified audits on ICT are reduced if not eliminated and that the ICT bill is also reduced.

Through the implementation of this policy framework, we will improve the current ICT environment within the public sector and the benefits of the policy framework as envisaged by the Cabinet will be realised.

This forum must therefore look into enabling factors that will ensure effective implementation of the Governance of ICT Policy Framework.

Free and Open Source Software

Cabinet approved a policy and strategy for the implementation of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in government on February 2007.

The FOSS policy and strategy directly and indirectly support and help deliver on national development goals and strategies, effectively putting ICT more directly in the service of socio-economic development without technical compromise.

Because of the significant developmental benefits that result from the widespread use of FOSS, the policy establishes a clear preference for FOSS in the South African Government.

The implementation of the policy was phased in over the 3-5 years. In order to co-ordinate proper implementation, a FOSS Programme Office ("FPO") was established in September 2007.

Overall very little has been achieved in the implementation of FOSS though there are individual initiatives here and there.

It is my hope that this Summit will highlight the challenges that are currently hindering the implementation of the Policy so that they can be addressed effectively. This is to ensure that government achieves the benefits that were envisaged by the Policy.

e-Government

Defined broadly, e-government is the use of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) to:

  • allow greater public access to information,
  • facilitate more accessible government services,
  • promote more efficient and effective government; and
  • make government more accountable to citizens, businesses and other stakeholders.

In essence the initiative attempts to make transactions, such as renewing licenses and certifications, paying taxes, and applying for benefits, less time consuming and easier to carry out.

In the case of South Africa, it is widely acknowledged that there has been limited e-government progress over the last ten years. We have experienced a continued decline of our position in the UN e-Government readiness rankings. We have slipped from 45th position in 2003 to 101st 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.

A pressing issue here is that we have not been singing from the same hymn sheet. The UN e-Government Readiness Indicator is a composite indicator, measuring a variety of factors that affect our e-Government readiness. The onus is on us to improve those indicators as a collective. We cannot do it in alone in our silos.

As a concept, e-government continues to hold great promise It is now time to re-set South Africa's e-government vision and strategy. It is at the higher maturity levels where the Government of South Africa and its citizens are likely to see the most benefit from e-government. Individual departments with the support of their IT officers have a critical role to play in documenting; re-engineering and automating the business processes of their departments in order to streamline administrative and business processes to deliver simpler, more effective services to citizens and business and other stakeholders and by so doing contribute to our strategic objective of customer service improvement.

While the overall process has been slow and ponderous, there is some evidence of progress here and there. Some examples of such progress is the Home Affairs cell phone tracking and notification of ID's applications, the South African Revenue Service e-Filing, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development Integrated Justice System (IJS), IEC electoral e-voting system, public service and administration gateway e-government portal, to mention but a few.

Role of GITOC

The Government Information Technology Officers Council (GITOC) was created to primarily use its collective wisdom, while co-ordinating and consolidating e-government efforts, to objectively identify unnecessary duplications and device effective mechanisms to eliminate replications.

I do believe though that the Council must be more proactive in ensuring that best practices are shared as well ensuring that existing systems are reused amongst government departments. We have to relook at the way government negotiates licensing with IT companies to ensure that government benefits.

We must work together to improve our internal efficiency and effectiveness to ensure continued business transformation successes by increasing cross-departments partnerships, empowering citizen focus and prudent utilization of resources, and encouraging the reduction of stovepipe systems.

A good model for all of us to follow is that of, National Treasury and the Department of Home Affairs are sharing data on citizens regarding deaths to ensure that pensions are dealt with in a coherent manner. So here and there, there are glimpses of brilliance.

An integrated ICT Strategy means that Government ICT systems must be able to communicate to each other, allowing for automatic sharing and exchange of electronic messages and documents, collaborative applications, distributed data processing and report generation, seamless transaction services, 'whole-of government' search and queries, integrated ICT systems management etc. Government should ensure that all ICT solutions within government can integrate and interoperate.

An enabling procurement environment

I am made to believe that current government tender procedures do not seek to enforce interoperable systems. Therefore, there is a need that as we amend the draft public service ICT Strategy and the legislation, there must be provisions wherein we insist that all ICT goods or services must be compatible with existing and planned government systems.

We should actively seek solutions that keep as much IT vendors in the competition as possible. Competition ensures that government service delivery is not singularly dependent on any IT vendor in the event of collapse.

Of note is that government has the ability to correct the situation, as well as to manage the related aspects of development of ICT infrastructure, because it consumes more than half of South Africa's ICT goods and services.

THE role of SITA

The mandate given to SITA by the Presidential Review Commission way back in 1998 remains as valid now as it was then. In fact, the case for a State IT Agency is made even more compelling by the National Development Plan. There is no debate about the importance of the State Owned Enterprises in a developmental state.

The state IT agency has had a tumultuous past and had somewhat deviated from its original mandate to provide the IT products and services to Govt to simply procuring for Govt. Right now our focus is: "going back to the basics" and ensuring that the SITA is geared to undertake its mandate.

We have a new board that is very well versed in the business world. Bringing with it exceptional corporate governance experience and leadership. We are working to reduce the procurement back log and ensure greater transparency in the procurement division.

Our short term strategy is to plug the holes, our medium term strategy is to right the ship and our long term strategy is to take SITA into Africa and bring revenue into our country through our contribution to the knowledge economy.

SITA has put down the foundation to deliver on several government services electronically .What I want to confirm to you is that SITA will not be shut down, it will be fixed, and will deliver on its mandate . The PRC of 1998 highlighted the need for a coherent national ICT agenda and implementation mechanism. The requirement hasn't changed. Our task is therefore to get that job done, by giving Cab Memo 38a the necessary impetus, strengthening the PSICTM capabilities and capacity, elevating GCIOs to the strategic level and ensuring that the SITA is configured to deliver.

Finally in respect to the issue of ICT security, we will do all the above conforming to a national ICT security agenda to ensure privacy and security of our national data.

Conclusion

As I conclude, I am informed that amongst us we have industry players, including our sponsors EOH, Bytes, T-Systems, Sizwe IT Group and our very own SITA. I want to highlight that industry has a role to play in helping government to achieve its mandate at a reduced cost. The effectiveness and affordability of ICTs can only be achieved if the industry partners with us. Government needs to be enabled to transform with the use of ICTs. I am confident that working together, will yield positive results.

Colleagues and friends, let us emerge from this Summit with a Government-wide ICT strategy that comprehensively supports the National Development Plan. We must ensure that these proposals are incorporated into the existing activities of departments and broken down into the medium and short-term plans of government at national, provincial and municipal level. The National Development Plan provides the golden thread that brings coherence and consistency to these different plans. The onus is now on us to develop an ICT Strategy that does the same.

The Minister in stating her expectation of this gathering indicated that she would at the end of the three days of the summit like to see a clear set of proposals, including, but not limited to, how we as government

  • develop a vision of a connected government and role of IT in support of government objectives and a broader developmental agenda
  • document, reengineer and streamline administrative and business processes to deliver simpler, more effective services to citizens and business and other stakeholders and by so doing contribute to our strategic objective of customer service improvement.
  • develop and implement immediate and interim measures to support and secure the IT environment of government
  • build the institutional arrangements and governance in which an effective team is supported to effect much needed transformation and the building of a secure, cost effective and aligned IT capability on behalf of the state
  • redefine rebuild and reinvent the IT model for government / single public service including clarifying the roles and responsibilities of the OGCIO, the GITOs and the SITA

Let us therefore engage robustly in this session as we chart the way towards enhancing the overall performance of ICT in government.

I thank you.


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