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GITOC toasts digital future as it marks 20th Anniversary

By Chris Tredger, ITWeb Africa editor.
Johannesburg, 04 Jun 2021

It has been 20 years since South Africa’s Government Information Technology Officers Council (GITO Council) was established, comprising CIOs from national government departments and provincial government IT officers, as default members, with all other public entities' CIOs admitted as associate members.

At its three-day AGM, hosted earlier this year, the organisation celebrated its 20 anniversary and the message to the market was clear: ‘no more same old same old’.

According to its constitution, the GITO Council is the inter-departmental forum focusing on ICT and information management within the South African public service, supporting and guiding the GCIO (Government Chief Information Officer) to operationalise the government IT and IM policies and provide feedback on their implementation and rules.

Back in 2017 the then Minister of Communications Faith Muthambi described the organisation’s mandate and said: “GITOC as an ICT advisory structure should ensure that Government is not compromised in matters pertaining to procurement of systems, deployment of information security measures, non-adherence to interoperability principles and framework, use of open standard and recruitment of skilled ICT work force.”

Four years on, the organisation is considered an influential, sustainable and effective initiative.

At its annual general meeting, the significance of its evolution as an organisation and its influence within South Africa’s ICT and telecommunications was not lost on chairman Mandla Ngcobo.

He offered former GCIOs and chairpersons an opportunity to reflect on milestones that epitomised the growth.

Former chair Jack Shilubane explained that during the years 2002 to 2004, the Council was going through its formative years and still in the process of developing policies that would inform government procurement and projects.

The issues at that time were interoperability standards, easier procurement for government departments and evaluation of service providers.

Achievements included the formalisation of the minimum interoperability standards and in 2004, the actual development and launch of phase one of the e-government gateway, which enabled the cataloguing of services within a single government portal.

“We also, I think, added (a good) communications machinery around the work that we did as a council, the work that we did around e-government. We were, at the time, engaging with both the public and private sectors around the work that government was doing to enhance service delivery using technology,” said Shilubane.

He advised the current council to consider how they communicate what they are doing with the outside world and also cement its position on IOT and the devices that are being used for data collection. This, he said, was a resource GITOC could tap into to enhance service delivery.

Patrick Monyeki, founding chairperson of GITOC from 2000 to 2002, said in the late nineties there was concern over the duplication of IT services and lack of government’s ability to utilise these services.

“In response to this, government formed SITA in 1999. However, soon after SITA’s formation it became very clear that IT governance was a bigger challenge.”

Among the challenges was the fact that IT was not seen as an enabler of business strategy, but as a support function. The best IT skills could not be retained in the public sector, said Moneyki.

However, this has changed and today – as a result of having clarified the dual role of CIO and chairperson and reconfigured its relationship with SITA - the focus is very squarely on its objectives within the service delivery environment, or MTSF (Medium Term Strategic Framework

Medium Term Strategic Framework 

Chairman Ngcobo said GITOC will focus on spectrum, Internet connectivity, reconfiguration of government departments and continued progress of the implementation of the Cabinet-approved e-government strategy.

While the organisation has had its fair share of challenges and was impacted by leadership struggles, difference of opinion in terms of strategy, approach and priorities, the Chairman is confident of the value proposition attached to the body.

GITOC is as relevant today as it was when it was first formed, he noted. Past and present officials of the organisation have stressed the importance of 4IR targets, working in conjunction with SITA and the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

They have a clear mandate to help South Africa on its journey to vastly improved connectivity and extending access to ICT and telecommunications to entrench and sustain a digital economy.