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SA looks to global relations to advance digital governance


The Department of Public Service and Administration has tuned into global multilateralism to enhance digital governance development in South Africa.

Speaking during the High-Level Panel at the recent four-day International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance (ICEGOV) in Portugal, Public Service and Administration Deputy Minister, Dr Chana Pilane-Majake unpacked the role of multilaterism in advancing participation, equity and transparency in the digital world.

At the conference themed ‘eGovernance for Social, Economic and Environmental Prosperity”, Dr Pilane-Majake told delegates: “In the past, much of what was clustered under multilaterism was to maintain power, protect national business interests or form power blocks. However, the time has come to explore multilaterism to push for common purpose to protect and empower citizens.”

“Otherwise, it would be negligent to assume that when engaging on eGovernment, we would engage on a level playing field with total neutrality in an environment where it is all about whose technology dominates. Whereas going at it through multilaterism, we can pursue common purpose because technology and data do not see national borders,” she explained.

“We can go as far as also ensuring that algorithms are transparent and applied ethically through multilaterism – subsequently enabling digital inclusion that ensures no one is left behind digitally, which is also in-line with our country’s socio-economic developmental approach,” she added.

Dr Pilane-Majake’s presentation comes on the back of her government assignment to assist with the finalisation of legislative framework to ensure the implementation of the Digital Government Strategy and Roadmap as well as the recommendations of the Presidential Commission of the 4th Industrial Revolution in the Public Service Act.

“When dealing with the matter of digital governance, we need to be clear that we are reflecting on the future of our youth, and the next generation of youth. Therefore, we should always work against our historic legacy of development not being in the interest of the most vulnerable citizens of our country,” she said.

The International Conference on Theory and Practice of Electronic Governance comes as South Africa is tightening efforts to connect all public service institutions in a bid to improve efficiencies and offer digitised services to citizens through the South Africa Connect programme.

The government programme, which was first rolled out in 2013, has already in its first phase brought about broadband connectivity to 900 government institutions that were previously either not connected at all or had connection with very slow copper lines.

South Africa Connect is currently in its second phase and aims to connect 4000 more government institutions that mostly include rural schools, clinics and police stations, among others, to advance services that also include e-learning, tele-health, real-time policing, as well as the use of internet of things (IOT) devices in remote parts of the country.

In closing the conference coordinated by the United Nations University Operating Unit on Policy-Driven Electronic Governance and attended by academia, governments, international organisations, civil society, and industry, the European Commission Director-General for Informatics, Veronica Gaffey presented the current and future developments in reinforcing interoperability policy in the European Union (EU).

The Commission has called for a reinforced EU Governments Interoperability strategy as one of the essential elements for the digital transformation of the public sector.