Nzimande decries govt’s many manual processes

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 13 Sept 2023
Higher education, science and innovation minister Dr Blade Nzimande. (Photograph by DCDT)
Higher education, science and innovation minister Dr Blade Nzimande. (Photograph by DCDT)

Higher education, science and innovation minister Dr Blade Nzimande was yesterday critical of his government, decrying the archaic process of applying for state jobs, for example.

Nzimande was one of the keynote speakers who addressed delegates at the State IT Agency’s (SITA’s) GovTech 2023 conference, focusing on innovation and skills development.

He noted he has told the National Skills Fund, the entity reporting to him, that developing digital skills is one of his top five priorities for training.

As a result, he wants to engage with communications and digital technologies minister Mondli Gungubele, on taking the initiative forward.

“We must adopt new technologies and digitisation in order to solve simple problems and challenges. Why do you need to go to a police station in this day and age to certify your certificates for applying for a government job for information that we have as government? Demanding certified copies of not older than three months?”

These demands are frustrating for citizens, he said. “Why can’t a government department simply press a button to check if the applicant does have a BA or diploma in electrical engineering?

“Why would a government department in this day and age advertise jobs and not provide an e-mail address, but ask applicants to phone where those phone calls are not being answered?

“Why do we still give fax numbers and keep fax machines? Why do we still in many cases not accept e-mails as means of communication, insisting on a piece of paper that is faxed or posted?”

Nzimande challenged GovTech, saying the forum needs to identify areas it will change from one conference to the next. “By the next GovTech, no government department should be doing any of the above-mentioned things.

“It is also for these reasons that we must massify digital skills, reduce the digital divide by empowering women, youth and people with disabilities, with special attention to underserved rural communities to enable them to participate meaningfully in the digital economy.

“Our commitment to skills development and innovation should not stop at basic digital literacy; it should equally go all the way to our investment in upskilling and reskilling programmes to prepare our students and workforce for the jobs of the future.

“We must also make sure government and public entities take the lead in the adoption of these modern technologies, for efficiency, and better delivery of services to the people.

“I’m aware there are pockets of resistance in government because modernisation gives us a weapon to fight corruption. To those not interested in fighting against corruption, they don’t want modernisation and want things to be done manually.”

According to the minister, the National Open Learning System (NOLS), developed in collaboration with the European Union, is one of the key projects in the post-school education and training sector.

“I am glad to report NOLS is fully-functional, and to date, over 18 000 lecturers and students have registered on the system. These users have access to free, high-quality content to support teaching and learning that also includes videos, simulations and interactive multimedia.

“The NOLS technical platform has been developed by SITA − which is our host − where the content repository is loaded with learning and teaching resources.

“I am very excited by the prospect to soon build artificial intelligence functionality into NOLS, in collaboration with Microsoft.”

GovTech, taking place this week in KwaZulu-Natal, is hosted by SITA, in partnership with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.