Home affairs digitisation project gathers pace

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 27 Oct 2023
Home affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. (Photograph by GCIS)
Home affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. (Photograph by GCIS)

The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) is making steady progress in its ambitious project to digitise 350 million records.

So said home affairs minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, in a parliamentary reply to Democratic Alliance MP Adrian Roos.

Announced by president Cyril Ramaphosa during his State of the Nation Address in February 2022, the project looks to digitise 350 million paper records and be an employment vehicle for 10 000 unemployed youth graduates.

The records being digitised relate to birth, marriages, deaths and amendments, which the DHA says date back to 1895, and necessitate care and reliable systems. They are located across all nine provinces, with the bulk in Gauteng, North West and Western Cape.

Through the project, the DHA looks to convert the paper-based records into an electronically-searchable format for easier handling and storage by the 2025/26 financial year.

Roos asked: With regard to the project to employ 10 000 youth to digitise home affairs records, what are the relevant details of the location of each office that implemented the project, and total number of youth working on the project and records digitised as at 31 August 2023?

In response, the minister said the first phase of the project recruited a total of 2 000 youth.

“Of these, some have received other appointments and the number has reduced to 1 146. The department is filling the vacancies. The second phase is to recruit 4 000 youth and this recruitment is under way.”

According to the minister, the first phase of the digitisation process focused on preparation of records – detailed indexing and condition assessment of records.

He noted the second phase, which includes full scanning and indexing of records in the production environment, started in June 2023 in Gauteng at the New Cooperation Building, Pretoria.

“As at 31 August 2023, the total number of records that had been digitised are 328 800, inclusive of 3 451 613 images. This performance is far above the target of 12 000 records set for the second quarter (July – September 2023) of the 2023/24 financial year.”

The project’s importance was highlighted in this year’s budget, with the DHA given an allocation of R839.9 million for the 2023/24 financial year.

Of this amount, R559.5 million will go towards compensation of young people employed for the project, revealed National Treasury’s 2023 Estimates of National Expenditure document.

The remainder of the funds will be used to procure ICT equipment and goods and services, the document states. “This year’s funds will mainly be used for recruiting more graduates, compensation of employees and payment for capital assets.”

The DHA is also working on other ICT modernisation projects over the medium-term. These include rolling out biometric movement control systems at identified ports of entry; developing a live‐capture system for births, marriages and deaths; managing asylum-seekers; and developing and rolling out the e‐visa system.