SPEECHES: Keynote Address by Hon. Ms Dipuo Letsatsi-Duba (MP),Deputy Minister for Public Service & Administration on the occasion of the 11th CPSI Public Sector Innovation Conference - the Emperors Palace

Date: 31 Aug 2017

Good morning to all of you and thank you very much for affording me this opportunity to address you on this important occasion of the 11th CPSI Public Sector Innovation Conference. May I also salute all women in the house today as we bring to a close Women’s month. “Wathinta Abafazi, Wathint’imbokodo!”<\p>

Above all, let me congratulate you for showing your continuous support to our endeavours to inculcate and nurture the culture and practice of innovation in the public sector to improve service delivery to citizens. You know as well as I do, that innovation is a true enabler and catalyst for improved service delivery and socio-economic development, hence our sustained call for it to become a key ingredient for public sector transformation. <\p>

We meet this year for a record 11th time, and this year under the theme – Positioning Public Sector Innovation for the 4th Industrial Revolution”<\p>

Let me share with you what I have seen as I have conducted Izimbizo in a number of provinces. It was heart wrenching to see that 23 years after we achieved our freedom more than 50% of our citizens still live in poverty. This was confirmed by the Statistician-General in a recent report on poverty. Some communities are deeply destitute: they are struggling to get clean water and decent sanitation is still a far-fetched dream for them. They suffer under a burden of crime with limited access to safety and security, they have limited access to health services, have no access to internet and so on. <\p>

The services in these areas leave too much to be desired. Whilst it is important that we honestly use government resources appropriately to address these gaps, it is also very important that we explore and embrace innovation which allows us to really push our boundaries and challenge the status quo to findsolutions that go beyond just meeting the most basic needs. Listening to the citizens I was deeply touched to realise that they are really asking for simple things and it confounds me how we are failing these people. <\p>

Having the 4th Industrial Revolution as a theme may therefore seem far removed from the needs of our citizens in remote rural communities. Whilst I will leave our very esteemed speakers to further elaborate on the critical importance of this concept, let me elaborate on what is important for these communities in order to convince all of us that we, as the public sector, ought to prioritise and address their needs:<\p>

Imagine a scenario where the local clinic is a comprehensive facility where onsite diagnosis is done through robotics; where a mother wears a simple device that alerts the clinic when her blood pressure is too high and dispatches a drone to deliver personalised medication at her doorstep, saving her travel time and costs.<\p>

Imagine the same mother coordinating a group of local artists that sell their creative work directly to international clients, and then sharing profits via a Bitcoin stokvel. Imaging this group then buying a mini renewable energy plant to provide for the energy needs of the whole village. Imagine the mother’s daughter, just 13 but already part of a global online team of coders and developers, working on her next project, also receiving payment – and paying her tax – in Bitcoins. (And for those not familiar with Bitcoin – it is one of the secure digital currencies already available.)<\p>

Indeed, villages and cities and cities will in future be connected in ways we cannot even imagine and the benefits and innovations will reach deep into our rural areas.<\p>

You can further imagine the local school being connected as a centre of learning, for young and old. Not only do they have access to the best teaching resources and free courses, but also to a global library. Learners will not only learn about 3D printers, but build their own printers and create little Fabrication Labs where essentials and even appliances can be printed and assembled.<\p>

These examples are not just wishful thinking but real possibilities, courtesy of the 4th Industrial Revolution which, as Klaus Schwab predicts, will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another, transforming it in a scale, scope, and complexity that will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. <\p>

We cannot run away from it, we will not be spared. The reality is that it is a double-edged sword, either increasing inequality, or helping us to leap-frog out of poverty and inequality. It is therefore up to us to understand it and its implications, that we pro-actively prepare and position ourselves, and importantly, that we leverage it to innovatively solve our most persistent service delivery challenges. <\p>

We must acknowledge that the 4th industrial revolution is disruptive in nature and that it fundamentally changes the relations between the state as a service provider and citizens as recipients or consumers. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: our response to it must be timeous, integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.<\p>

The World Economic Forum and our NDP stress that being innovative is the only way in which we can remain competitive as a country and manage to cushion ourselves against the various turbulences of modern life.<\p>

As a result, we all need to work together and rally around the call to transform the public sector into an innovative and creative machinery. We must continue to create and nurture an innovation friendly environment, not only within the public sector but tapping into the creative commons of our communities. This will ensure that we continue to build a solution-focused, effective and efficient Public Sector through innovation. <\p>

I am told that in attendance today are representatives from all three spheres of our government, plus above all, business, academia and civil society, including entrepreneurs. By defying these sectorial divisions, you have responded to one of the key requirements of the NDP, to strengthen our inter-governmental relations and partnerships, to ensure collaborative and seamless service delivery at all levels. As our government mantra says: ‘working together we can achieve a better life for all’. <\p>

You are indeed the new face of the public sector, innovative, creative and solution-focused officials that share skills and insights to spearhead the radical transformation of our economy and society into these realities. As the generation that is leading us into the 4th industrial revolution, you can no longer rely on solutions from the past to deal with the legacies of the past, the triple challenges of inequality, unemployment and poverty. New opportunities and solutions to radically enhance access to services have to be explored as a matter of urgency and we should be investing significantly more resources in innovation and creativity.<\p>

I am glad that we have convened during this very important month which focuses on women, who are by nature highly creative and innovative. The harsh reality of the historic inequalities amongst the citizens of this country is even more magnified amongst women. It has sadly also robbed us of the rightful contribution women are making to do things better, faster and smarter. I am told that we have young women entrepreneurs who are exhibiting their innovations today. May I request that you make time to engage them and see what these young women have done to tackle the challenges they face daily.<\p>

We need to quicken our pace or we will be left behind. We have to conclude what we have promised years ago to our citizens as the benefits of the third industrial revolution. I am delighted that the SITA CEO is here, as he has to lead the way to ensure that we complete the digitalisation journey. We cannot have a myriad of paper-based systems in 2017 and expect to be ready for the next revolution!<\p>

Digitalisation and automation of our service delivery processes through information technology should revolutionise the way we offer services as government: faster, more effective and efficient, around the clock service delivery capacity that defies geographical confines. Furthermore, our state institutions tasked with driving enabling digitisation need to also respond to the urgent need to improve access by increasing broadband, even at service delivery points in the most remote parts of the country.<\p>

We do not have to be fearful of the future and future technological developments. We need to keep reminding ourselves of the fact that the “mobile phone may have done more than any other single technical innovation to improve prosperity, business and innovation in Africa. By eliminating the need for expensive infrastructure investments, mobile technology has opened up the continent in ways never thought to be previously possible.” Being prepared to embrace the future is the challenge before us.<\p>

In conclusion, I am urging you to fully utilise this conference as a learning platform. I hope that the many thought-provoking discussions and innovations that will be presented during the two days will indeed enthuse you to continue to highlight and harness public sector innovation as that catalytic tool which will assist us close the service delivery gaps we see today. <\p>

I thank you<\p>

Issued by the Ministry for the Public Service and Administration

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