Fellow Cabinet Ministers
Executive Director of the CPSI Ms Thuli Radebe,
Ladies and gentlemen
Please allow me to acknowledge the presence of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Knowledge and Innovation Advisor for Africa, Mr Marc Lepage, our esteemed visitors from the Republic of Namibia and the People's Republic of China, senior government officials from various state institutions, representatives from the private sector as well as our generous sponsor of this Conference, iTMaster.
Also, let me acknowledge some of the longest serving Directors-General present here today, Dr Phil Mjwara of the Department of Science and Technology, Mr Kopung Ralikontsane of the Free State Province and the Principal of the National School of Government, Professor Richard Levin.
The Chief Executive Officers present, including Mr McLean Sibanda of the Innovation Hub, Mr Barlow Manilal of the Technology Innovation Agency and Dr Eugene Watson, of the Road Accident Fund.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
As South Africans, August is a very special month for us in that our democratic government has designated as a month to honour women who refused to be oppressed by the apartheid government and marched to the Union Buildings 60 years ago. Therefore, it is only befitting that I take this opportunity to salute all women gathered here as well as all those throughout the length and breadth of our country. For your nurturing, unconditional love and resilience, sometimes prevailing over the severest and harshest conditions to bring up children, I can only think about one warm and befitting expression used by the Igbo people from Nigeria when fondly referring to their mothers, saying 'Nneka' meaning 'Mother is supreme'.
Indeed, as mothers and pillars of our nation, you are all supreme. WATHINTA ABAFAZI WATHINTA IMBOKODO.
I would also like to salute Wayde van Niekerk for breaking a world record and bringing a gold medal home from RIO Olympics 2016, especially because his coach is a 74 year old woman! It is indeed humbling to see how we can change our lives by thinking beyond the ordinary and believing in ourselves. Our deepest and heartfelt congratulations to Caster Semenya for her incredible performance and all medalists and athletes who took part in the games. South Africa has a lot to offer!
Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is indeed a great honour and privilege to be part of the 10th CPSI Public Sector Innovation Conference held under the theme, "Aligning Innovation and the Service Delivery Value Chain for Sustainable Public Sector Efficiency."
As we engage, over the next two days, in robust discussions and deliberations on pertinent issues about service delivery innovation, we will be celebrating a milestone by the CPSI of a decade of entrenching excellence and thought leadership in public sector innovation.
From the maiden event in 2007, the CPSI has worked tirelessly ensuring that this Conference becomes an effective platform for driving its mandate of inculcating and nurturing innovation in the public sector to improve service delivery. This Conference certainly continues to deliver on its value proposition of showcasing viable innovative solutions and facilitating the replication of these where the need exists.
This is very critical, particularly where public officials are often taunted as non-innovative, bureaucratic and somewhat non-visionary. It would therefore be a mistake to consider this Conference as a mere public sector event. It is a valuable asset in maximising the impact of innovation on service delivery. It is what happens after this Conference that matters and may it grow in strength and continue to contribute meaningfully towards a public sector that is well-capacitated to innovatively deliver responsive and relevant services timeously to citizens.
Our work as government is primarily premised on improving the lives of our people, particularly the marginalised, by dealing with the vestiges of decades of discrimination seen through poverty, crime and corruption. This is an undertaking and key responsibility for which we have no option but to push all boundaries and leave no stones unturned as public officials to find solutions to persistent service delivery challenges and setbacks. Not doing so is deliberately defying the social compact that has been edged into our Constitution by the fathers of our democracy.
Of relevance to us within the public sector, the theme of this Conference brings into focus one of the most fundamental aspects of public sector service delivery - the sequence of activities that constitute the entire process involved in servicing the citizens. Each of the elements involved in service delivery - from conceptualising and planning, through to successful implementation - are important and indispensable in ensuring the delivery of a promised value proposition in any sector.
Critically, a service delivery value chain that functions optimally ensures a smooth uninterrupted and seamless process, culminating in a successfully delivered a service. In other words, poor service and long queues are all symptoms of problems in the service delivery value chain. My colleague, the Minister of Home Affairs, can confirm that optimising and tracking each step of the value chain have enabled his Department to reduce the delivery time for an Identity Document from more than 54 days to less than a week.
Ladies and gentlemen:
The theme of the Conference highlights the importance of bringing innovation into the equation, as the Department of Home Affairs did. This can only be achieved when government departments and state institutions get the basics right and refrain from viewing innovation in isolation as an "optional extra".
As our insights into processes improve and technology develops, new opportunities arise to shorten or improve service delivery value chains. Some services may even become obsolete as new service channels are made possible.
For instance, today citizens rather conveniently renew vehicle licences at the Post Office and not at licence offices and, since recently, may opt to apply for an Identity Document at a bank. As announced by the Minister of Health recently, we will soon benefit from an ATM-like machine that will be dispensing chronic medication, courtesy of one of our previous CPSI Public Sector Innovation Awards finalists.
The theme therefore encourages public officials to be always on their toes to question existing service delivery value chains and challenge ourselves to significantly improve these through innovation.
While there has been a measure of success in some of the solutions that have emerged, many have failed to deliver on the expected value proposition, resulting in wastage of state resources and mounting frustration among public officials and citizens alike. Due to the urgency and pressure to find solutions to service delivery challenges, public officials should be on alert not to be caught up in the euphoria of glitzy, off-the-shelf and ready-made overrated solutions that are costly but with unsatisfactory outcomes.
Ladies and gentlemen:
For innovation to be successful, it should be contextually relevant and be able to address the root causes of service delivery failures. In addition, the process of innovating service delivery solutions should unfold alongside and be informed and influenced by the service delivery value chain.
The open innovation paradigm as well as the open government approach that we are excited about are becoming ever-expanding resources for public officials as they allow for citizens, SMMEs and social entrepreneurs to co-respond and co-design new solutions and make well informed and grounded interventions in existing value chains.
Again, this should not be viewed as "new" fads but rather as opportunities to leverage the shared creative spirit of our great nation, remembering that we are mandated by our Constitution to ensure that all citizens of this country gain easy access to all services. We are therefore talking about a public sector that is robust and well-equipped with the necessary capacity to loyally execute the policies of the government of the day.
Most critically, we have to ensure that the beneficiaries of these services are afforded the human dignity enshrined in Section 1 of the Constitution.
Equally important, as spelled out in Section 195 (1) of the Constitution, the Public Service should be governed by some values and principles including a high standard of professional ethics, effectiveness and efficiency, responsiveness, accountability, and a development-oriented public service. These values also emphasise that our development programmes must be effective, that is, they must achieve developmental impacts, in addition to being operationally efficient.
Looking back over the years, as South Africans, we can take pride in the successes that have been realised in some government programmes including the modernisation efforts undertaken by the Department of Home Affairs as mentioned earlier but there are also major challenges such as the inability of the economy to create jobs on a significant scale.
This puts into focus the importance of this conference where public officials are encouraged to take particular cognisance of the profound role and significance of innovation, creativity and open mindedness in determining the direction and approach that we take in terms of service delivery improvement. But more than that, we should also encourage participatory citizenship amongst our people where we allow them to guide us in how we deliver services and importantly gauge their opinions on the performance.
Ladies and gentlemen:
We know what citizens expect from us as espoused by the Batho Pele Priniciples: accessibility to public services, being treated with courtesy, timeliness in the provision of services, the availability of information on public services, the knowledge and competency of officials, facilities in good condition, fairness and equity, value for money on services rendered, and the opportunity for redress where a promised standard has not been met.
We therefore need to intensify our efforts to be innovatively responsive to the needs of our people. As government institutions we need to reinforce and collaborate widely and across sectors. Sustainable development requires multiple, targeted and effectively coordinated interventions. A silo approach will not only lead to an inefficient utilisation of scarce resources, but the development impact will also be compromised.
The task of positioning our Public Service to function optimally continues, to this day. The deliberations and discussions that will follow in the next two days can only enrich our understanding of the situation we are dealing with, and the considerations we need to make going forward.
In terms of the National Development Plan, the role of innovation as a catalyst in ensuring an effective state machinery, is indisputable, as we will hear from my colleague Minister Radebe. However, innovation can only thrive in a permissive and supportive environment. This is true for us as a country at large where our competitiveness is dependent on a strong National System of Innovation and it is equally true for a public sector that should be solution-focused. Working together with strategic partners such as academia, industry, civil society and specifically our National System of Innovation galvanises our efforts to optimise the impact of innovation.
Partnerships such as the ones with the United Nations Development Programme, the Innovation Hub, the Technology Innovation Agency and with the cities such as City of Tshwane, are not only evident at this engagement but will play a critical role in the successful delivery on our mandate to entrench the culture and practice of innovation in the South African public sector.
In conclusion: May we all use this invaluable opportunity to collectively engage on innovation, share and exchange knowledge and experiences and let us all use it to explore a range of areas where innovation can permeate throughout our institutions.
If we work together and innovate together, we can make a difference to the lives of our citizens. Together, We Move South Africa Forward.
I thank you.