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SA’s regulations called out for stifling innovation

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 18 Aug 2023
SITA’s Lucas Mogashoa delivered the keynote address at yesterday’s Public Sector ICT Forum. (Photograph by Lesley Moyo)
SITA’s Lucas Mogashoa delivered the keynote address at yesterday’s Public Sector ICT Forum. (Photograph by Lesley Moyo)

South Africa’s stifling regulatory framework reared its ugly head once again at yesterday’s instalment of the Public Sector ICT (PSICT) Forum.

Lucas Mogashoa, executive of corporate and digital strategy, innovation and partnerships at the State IT Agency (SITA), said the country’s legislation “does not enable investment, innovation and empowerment”.

He made the comments during his keynote address on the topic of public-private partnerships (PPPs), within the context of advancing strategic frameworks, such as SA’s National Infrastructure Plan 2050.

Mogashoa noted government doesn’t have all the necessary funds, hence the need for PPPs.

However, a key consideration to this is putting in place the necessary regulatory frameworks, he stated. “These [regulatory frameworks] should be enabling.

“We’ve got a lot of SMMEs in South Africa that want to do business with government, but they’ve got to compete with multinationals that have all the skills, tools and funds.

“We need to enable the empowerment of local solutions within South Africa, so that they are implemented in government, to ultimately grow the economy locally.”

The PSICT Forum yesterday hosted its event in Menlyn, Pretoria, under the theme: “Public-private partnerships as the foundation of public sector digital transformation”.

Co-chaired by Mothibi Ramusi and Mthoko Mncwabe, both CIOs of public sector entities, the PSICT Forum was introduced in September 2016. It is organised by ITWeb Brainstorm, with Telkom subsidiary BCX as the headline sponsor.

During his opening remarks, Ramusi said it is important to have norms and standards for partnerships, but these policies and regulations should not hinder the country’s progress.

“In this journey to a digitised environment, we need those standards to look back on, in order to make sure we are doing things within proper governance structures, are they it fit-for-purpose, etc.”

Another value-add of partnerships, according to Mogashoa, is around capability and capacity. “We don’t have all the skills in SA we need for all the infrastructure programmes. The key is to partner with people who have, and that’s where PPPs come in.

“Let’s partner with SMMEs and established companies so that together we can build the infrastructure for our country. You will never have all the skills in one institution, hence partnerships are critical.

“At SITA, I’m responsible for partnerships. I’ve seen more than 120 companies in the last three months, with a view of partnering with them to assist us to deliver solutions for government.”

Services to the people

Ramusi and Mogashoa agree there needs to be a solid digital communication infrastructure to deliver services to the public. Infrastructure is the foundation of everything we need to do, said Mogashoa.

“For anybody to consume digital solutions in this country − whether it’s government, citizens or businesses − we need to have proper infrastructure to be put in place, to enable access at all levels, including rural areas.”

Delving into some of the focus areas of the National Infrastructure Plan 2050, particularly on digital communications infrastructure, Mogashoa said this is one of the key reasons to ensure the country leverages technological advancements.

To achieve this, there needs to be different funding mechanisms, including PPPs and incentives, he noted.

“If you need people to partner with, you need to provide them with incentives for them to see value in what they are trying to get out of that particular relationship.”

Within this scope, there are also a number of conditions that need to be met for this type of infrastructure plan to be successful.

First and most important is political stability and governance, he pointed out, saying this is so that solution delivery is consistent across the board.

He explained: “In SA today, every time there is leadership change, at a political level, we press the reset button because nobody knows what to do next, or what the new minister’s expectations are, for example.

“The [new] minister will come with their own expectations, after which they will appoint a new board and that board will also come with its own expectations. The strategy that was being implemented gets disrupted across the whole country. This is why there is no movement in South Africa.

“The reason service delivery is at a standstill is because of the disruption of leadership changes in the country. We have a different minister every six months, which means there will be another strategy after six months. When the time comes to implement, there’ll be another one [minister].”

Furthermore, he stated there needs to be policy alignment. “There are too many initiatives with competing priorities within the country and those clashing plans have a tendency of affecting delivery. There needs to be cohesion in terms of the kinds of initiatives we drive throughout the country.

“Additionally, we need collaboration. We need to talk and collaborate with one another. There is a partner ecosystem that we need to leverage – we’ve got the private sector, public entities, research institutions, academia, youth and OEMs. We’ve got companies that have already done things, so we do not have to reinvent the wheel in South Africa.”