SPEECHES

Keynote Address By L N Sisulu, MP, Minister for the Public Service and Administration at Govtech 2013, 22 November 2013, Cape Town ICC

Date: 22 Oct 2013

SITA Chairperson: Mr. Jerry Vilakazi

Members of the SITA Board of Directors

SITA Chief Executive Officer: Mr. Freeman Nomvalo

Directors General

Mr. Sandile Zungu: EOH Chairperson

EOH - The Hospitality Sponsor contributing to tonight's event

SITA GovTech VIP's

SITA International Speakers and Guests

Sponsors

Captains of Industry

Senior Officials

Hon. Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

I have always been intrigued by the writings of a philosopher who wrestled with some of the ideas of the 20th century on innovation and who concluded that it is very important to innovate, but for good reason and to benefit humanity, and that unless innovation performed this task, it was retrogressive. Here we are at the beginning of another century gathered to marvel at and consider the latest advancements in technology. In this century these changes are occurring at a rate arguably faster than ever experienced before. But even in this environment we should not ever lose sight of the big question: how sensible and useful are these new developments in technology for us? Are all these innovations taking us forward and responding to our specific needs? I believe Minister Manuel has given you a full view of where we as government are heading and the place of technology in our plans.

Without repeating what he said, I need to just contextualize some of our concerns. In our country the people and government are in a twenty first century that is beset by challenges typical of a society emerging from long dark years of poverty and underdevelopment. As the new South Africa moves on to its twentieth year of democracy, the contours of our challenges are only becoming more sharply defined in the light of the new dawn:

    • we are battling some of the most deeply rooted and stubborn poverty in our world, stubborn because it is etched in race;

    • we live with huge inequalities and these are most visible in the Wwestern Cape, where we are right now. From the airport you would have driven on the N2 highway, past some of our worst slums to arrive at this first world facility;

    • our levels of unemployment have stayed very high for a long time;

    • we still need keep large numbers of our young in a good and improving education system;

    • many of our fellow citizens are yet to be settled in decent and humane environments, which remain very rural, with limited access to modern communication;

    • our society must still push crime on a consistent downward trend, while confirming safe and secure neighbourhoods;

    • our health facilities are struggling to provide uniform good quality care to all our citizens; and

    • an unacceptably high number of people in the private and public sector are seeking dishonourable routes to riches, thus pushing corruption to worrying heights in our society.

This country's ruling party has, since its inception a whole century ago, understood that it would take a deep effort to turn the tragedy of apartheid around and place the country on the path to stability, peace and prosperity for all. Evident in all its policies and programs before and after attaining power, is a progressive appreciation of the unique challenges and equally exacting interventions required for change. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the essence of twenty first century South Africa. This is our reality, which even the most flippant among us may not overlook.

The rosiest of lenses cannot cast this picture in fancy light. The geekiest among us will be hard pressed to fictionalise this reality into a happy fantasy. We all have to work the country inch by inch into the new South Africa that the whole world wants to see. Hence we ask you here at Govtech 2013, whether you have for us technologies that are well intended and will benefit us, out of this picture I have painted; and whether, those of you who are here representing our government, realise what we need to do and therefore what to buy for this government to fulfill our centuries' old quest for a good quality life for all.

Program Director, the twentieth century philosopher I spoke of earlier was indeed right to remind his generation that innovation is not good in and of itself. We too here in South Africa today still agree that innovation and development is important in what it achieves for us and country. So we come to Govtech 2013 in anticipation of new and affordable ways of

    • professionalizing our administration;

    • meeting our citizens' expectations for public goods and services;

    • confronting and defeating corruption in our society.

Minister Manuel would have gone into some detail on these.

So ladies and gentlemen of technology, we ask ourselves as government, on a regular basis: are your technologies built with us in mind, or are we just part of the sales chain? In present day South Africa we have challenges that require specific and not generalized, off-the-shelf interventions, to resolve. And so you fail us when you sweet-talk us into purchasing systems that

    • do not enable us to build decent affordable homes for vulnerable citizens;

    • do not empower our teachers to educate our children effectively for the future, both our rural and urban, advantaged and disadvantaged alike;

    • do not equip our police men and women to secure our homes, businesses and workplaces, so that the system at the border post speaks to the condition that we have of borders to control; and

    • do not fortify our society's battle against corruption.

This 8th Annual Govtech Conference is held on the eve of the celebrations of the 20 years of our democracy, and thus beckons innumerable urgent questions which we should pose to ourselves as we gather here today:

    • 1. How have the technologies we have adopted and procured as a state helped to accelerate service delivery to the masses of our people and to advance the attainment of a better life for all which we spoke about in 1994?

    • 2. If we are to accept that Information Communication Technologies are a critical enabler for socio-economic development, have we done enough as a country, both government and the private sector, to ensure that the benefits of ICT's are accessible to all our people, not just those in the urban areas, but also including the ordinary folk in rural homesteads?

    • 3. What is South Africa's market share of the global Knowledge-based Economy? Are we producers of knowledge or mere consumers? Are we training and preparing the necessary work-force of bright young South Africans who will drive the creation of a strong knowledge-based economy in our country?

    • 4. What is our thinking with regard to a procurement strategy that prioritises locally created applications, software and technological devices? In our sourcing of solutions and applications that are developed in other countries, are we not indirectly exporting South Africa's jobs to the likes of China, India and the USA, while we desperately need to create employment here at home?

    • 5. Where America has the Silicon Valley, India has its Bangalore One, Mexico has Guadalajara, Malaysia has Cyberjaya. Where is South Africa's hub for ICT development? Does it exist? Is there a plan to consolidate one?

    • 6. We would like this conference to deliberate on key issues related to increase proviosining of broadband infrastructure outside the metros, with the understanding that a 10% increase in penetration broadband translates to an estimated 1,4% increase in the GDP in low and middle income economies. The cost to communicate in South Africa is still ranked amongst the highest in the world and thus undermines access to the benefits of ICT's and thus exacerbate poverty, inequality and unemployment. We must draw wisdom from countries like Finland who have declared access to broadband as a human right and thus have committed to providing broadband infrastructure for every household. I must remind you that not so long ago Finland's economy was heavily reliant on forestry but today, with a company like Nokia having been founded within its borders, they can certainly boast of having started the smart-phone revolution.

Good innovation for us must be rooted in our landscape. It must be inspired and driven by our necessity and must harness our own ingenuity. Our government is determined to ensure that as we take on our challenges head-on, we must recognise and support local technological advancement. There are many South Africans, big and small, who are hard at work every day, producing various technologies. Both government and the private sector must assist this process by buying South African wherever possible and supporting partnerships with South Africa. The spinoffs hardly need pointing out. We will

    • encourage local progress and competitiveness; and

    • promote local employment and deepen wealth creation;

We need technologies that can be supported and maintained locally. Therefore, our IT community, as you interact over the rest of Govtech 2013, bear in mind our needs, our concerns and deliberate on these.

The new board of the State Information Technology Agency (SITA), and its refreshed management team were inaugurated in the last few weeks, and they are here to meet and interact with all our guests at Govtech 2013. You will hear from them over the course of the next few days, how they intend to carry forward this mandate of harnessing technology and advancement to realise our goal of a better life for all. They have my full support in this mission.

I in turn work with this highly motivated team to see to it that our historic task of a truly democratic, prosperous South Africa is realized in our living century. And so we toil day and night, and progress, through highs and lows:

    • to see our government and its employees conclude medium and long term remuneration deals;

    • to see DPSA with unions and associations make pledges to clean government and zero tolerance to corruption;

    • to see the birth of a school of government to professionalise our civil service; and

    • to see all embrace the reality of a unified, single civil service to serve our population the best way it deserves.

We do all of this because we are totally committed to bring about a better South Africa for all our people. To achieve this we shall leave no technology and innovation unscrutised for usefulness and benefit to our nation. For those of you who were wondering who this philosopher is, whose ponderings on innovation have caught my attention, he was the Spanish American philosopher, George Santayana (1863 - 1952). He also said:

"Fashion is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without reason and imitation without benefit".

Program Director, Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you sensible and beneficial discussions in the service of our people and humanity at large.

I thank you.


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