Govt should focus on e-services in 2019

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Developed countries are digitising their public sector operations, to establish smarter and greener cities.
Developed countries are digitising their public sector operations, to establish smarter and greener cities.

E-government services are one of the key areas the administration should be looking to pay more attention to in 2019.

This is the sentiment shared by Frost & Sullivan, stating that government is yet to take full advantage of the potential offered by advanced technologies such as the cloud and the Internet of things.

It notes that digitising data and operations within the public sector is expected to eliminate a lot of inefficiencies, improve the quality of service delivery, as well as encourage citizen participation in decision-making processes.

"A lot has been made of the ambitions of the major metros such as Cape Town, Johannesburg and eThekwini to become smart cities, with smart uses of electricity, transportation, waste, security and traffic management. A key priority of the government should remain in meeting some of the more basic needs, with e-education and e-health some of the targeted initiatives. The under-served, under-developed rural areas in particular should be the priority for government."

Sophisticated networks

In order to achieve any e-service targets, however, government first needs to focus on enabling ubiquitous network coverage across the country, to ensure rural areas and public health facilities and schools are connected, the market research and analysis firm advises.

"The industry will be expecting to see a lot more done on the SA Connect project, which was created precisely to achieve that."

SA Connect is a government-led broadband project. Promulgated by the then Department of Communications in 2013, the project is the country's national broadband policy and associated strategy to meet the technology goals of the National Development Plan.

Its key objective is for broadband access to reach a critical mass of South Africans.

Through the project, government aims to deliver 100% broadband connectivity to state facilities by 2020. It is also expected to deliver broadband access to 90% of the country's population by 2020 and 100% by 2030.

Due to the magnitude of the project, government decided it should be implemented in two stages: phase one and phase two. The first phase focuses on connecting all schools, health facilities, government offices, Thusong Centres and post offices in eight rural district municipalities to broadband services.

However, the ambitious government broadband initiative has missed numerous self-imposed deadlines, hampering implementation.

In the Adjusted Estimates of National Expenditure of the 2018 Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, the telecoms ministry promised that 570 government facilities will be connected to broadband by the end of the 2018/2019 financial year.

Digital migration push

Now that the Department of Communications (DOC) has determined SA's analogue switch-off will be completed in July 2020, Frost & Sullivan stresses that 2019 will be a crucial year to ensure citizens earning less than R3 200 have access to the government-subsidised set-top boxes.

After missing the 2015 International Telecommunication Union deadline, the DOC, which is in charge of the country's digital migration, has this year ramped up efforts to get the project back on track.

When the country switches to digital terrestrial television, it will be able to make radio frequency spectrum available, which is currently occupied by analogue services, for other broadband and broadcasting services.

"Digital migration will unlock valuable spectrum between the 700MHz and 800MHz bands, which is suited to deploy broadband infrastructure for 4G or LTE technology and providing connectivity in the under-serviced areas outside big cities."

Frost & Sullivan also notes that in 2019, the South African Revenue Service's (SARS's) eFiling service is expected to see higher investments from government and the private sector.

This, says the firm, is to bring the service to its full level of efficiency and modernisation.

The future risk in regards to the compatibility of eFiling and Web browsers toward 2020 was recently highlighted at the Nugent commission of inquiry.

The inquiry, which is investigating tax administration and governance by SARS, is probing whether tenders were correctly awarded, criminal investigations covered up, and employees coerced to leave under the leadership of former commissioner Tom Moyane.

The inquiry heard testimony about the tax collector's aging IT infrastructure, budgetary constraints to upgrade systems, and current capacity and functionality of systems. It also probed the awarding of a R200 million IT contract to Gartner and the value SARS received from this agreement.

In his maiden Medium-Term Budget Policy Statement, finance minister Tito Mboweni promised swift action in dealing with leadership woes at the revenue service. President Cyril Ramaphosa has since fired Moyane.

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