DPSA Director-General, Ms Yoliswa Makhasi

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) exists for the effectiveness and efficiency of the public sector to deliver quality service to citizens.

These were the words of Public Service and Administration Director-General, Ms Yoliswa Makhasi while speaking at the Annual General Meeting and strategic planning session of the Government Information Technology Officers Council (GITOC) that was recently held in Cape Town.

“It is clear therefore, that ICT does not exist only for itself but for the “effectiveness and efficiency of the public service and its service delivery to the public.”

It is clear to me that the Presidential Review Commission Report which led to the establishment of GITOC after it “identified a lack of strategic direction in the utilisation of Information Management, Information Systems and Information Technology (IMST), to support government goals” remains relevant and must be attended to.

“Looking at the challenges still facing government, we can conclude that a lot is still required from the GITOC to ensure that it lives up to its responsibility for “IT strategies to align with the strategic direction and management plans of the department,” she said.

DG Makhasi further said the approved framework to professionalise the public service clearly demonstrates that public sector modernisation is no longer an option, but a necessity to help departments to respond to changing societal needs.

“With the professionalisation framework approved by Cabinet, public sector modernisation is no longer an option, but a necessity as it will help departments to respond to changing societal needs and maintain competitiveness in an uncertain environment.

“We must move government to understand that Information Technology (IT) is not a support function, but an enabler of business processes and strategy…Only Chief Information Officers (CIO’s) can assist government to move this way.

“As part of professionalisation of the role of the CIO, I have asked the Government Chief Information Officer to assist us by undertaking a similar exercise to that which National Treasury did for the Chief Financial Officer role.

“We need to define the role of the CIO, standardise the job descriptions, inherent qualifications, and competencies.

“This will allow GITOC to clarify the role of the CIO and redefine its relationship with SITA as you focus your efforts within the service delivery environment,” she said adding that if the strategic planning session fails to at least start this conversation, it will have abandoned its space.

According to DG Makhasi, the role of the CIO requires a person with cross-functional capabilities and a wide variety of skills to align the IT space with the strategic direction of the department as well as to re-engineer business processes.

Critical to this, she said is the need for GITOC to clearly define its role with respect to the many bodies within government that are supposed to deal with modernisation and Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

These include the 4IR Commission, the Inter-Ministerial Committee led by Department of Communications, and Digital Technologies, the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMS) in the National Treasury and the role of the Minister for Public Service and Administration (MPSA) to develop norms and standards relating to:

  • Information Management,
  • Electronic Government,
  • Transformation, Reform, Innovation to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Public Service and its service delivery to the public.

ICT capacity in government

A 2021 DPSA survey of the ICT staff complement across 141 national and provincial departments revealed that ICT personnel only make up 0,2% of full-time employees in the public service.

“With this limited capacity noted, I am however concerned that the current skills and capacity are not being utilized efficiently and to their full capacity. Attendance statistics for GITOC for the 2022/23 financial year show that at the most only about 50% of members at any point participate,” she said.

The DG also used the platform to ask GITOC delegates for their proposals to address this challenge to ensure that government has the necessary capacity and skills to support digitalisation, eGovernment, eServices and modernisation.

                        Silo approach

Currently, Ms Makhasi said digital information systems and data management developed at national, provincial, and local governments are fragmented or redundant, whether they are under the same institutions or between different institutions.

These, she said, create further barriers related to access, affordability, and ability to deliver and consumption of services by the users of digital services.

Insufficient integration

Insufficient operational processes across government departments can result in a lack of coordination and alignment amongst various processes, procedures, and systems used by different government departments.

“This lack of coordination can lead to inefficiencies, duplication of efforts, and delays in the delivery of services to citizens.

“Many government departments operate independently of one another, each having its own unique set of processes and procedures, which can place the burden of integration on citizens.