New 4IR strategy envisions Gauteng as 'Silicon Valley of Africa'
The Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) has unveiled its 4IR Growth and Digitalisation Strategy, which seeks to provide fully-digital public services to citizens and position the province as the “Silicon Valley of Africa”.
The new strategy, announced during a virtual media conference on Friday, is spearheaded by the Gauteng Department of e-Government and the 4IR advisory panel – a 15-member panel appointed by Gauteng premier David Makhura, to support government in ensuring citizens access modern government services.
Providing an outline of the 4IR strategy, advocate Pieter Holl, stream lead of the Gauteng Provincial 4IR Panel and CEO of The Innovation Hub, explained the strategy seeks to further drive the implementation of the Grow Gauteng Together (GGT) 2030 roadmap, and facilitate the adoption of new technologies to ensure all Gauteng’s citizens benefit from a fully modernised public service.
In responding to the 4IR challenges, the province has embarked on a modernisation journey to smarter and digitised government services across departments, to drive sustainable economic growth and prosperity for Gauteng citizens, businesses and government, through co-ordination across city agencies and the involvement of all role-players in the provincial innovation ecosystem.
“The 4IR panel welcomes the opportunity to work with all stakeholders in driving this vision to make Gauteng the leading digital economy on this continent and beyond,” noted Holl.
“The 4IR Growth and Digitalisation Strategy provides a framework for the digitisation of Gauteng's institutions to transform the inclusivity and quality of service delivery to the province's residents and businesses. This strategy is the province's bold vision to respond to the 4IR and prepare the provincial government to migrate to digital systems.”
Specifically, the 4IR advisory panel’s mandate is to identify policies, relevant strategies and plans required to make Gauteng respond efficiently to the 4IR, and further contribute to the development of a Gauteng city-region-wide 4IR strategy and roadmap.
Under the new strategy, Gauteng’s Department of e-Government is working on the establishment of several support structures to drive the improvement of e-government services, accessibility and enhancement of budget spend, he added. These include the setting up of a data office and data collaborator, the establishment of a Gauteng city-region 4IR regulatory sandbox and policy lab, e-procurement for cost saving, and the piloting of various initiatives established though public-private sector collaborations.
“The COVID-19 pandemic brought to the fore the importance of data as the new oil in driving evidence-based decisions, and it is crucial to the development of new business opportunities. Gauteng continues to embrace the modernisation of government services and learn new ways of connecting with people, using data and processes.”
- Digital infrastructure technologies that will provide meaningful connectivity to support new businesses, drive service delivery underpinned by data to support decision-making and provide new business opportunities.
- Smart procurement (e-procurement process) to drive transparency, better value for money, promote ethics and fair dealing, and maximise accountability.
- A strategy to drive competitiveness and growth of Gauteng’s positioning supported by well-functioning data-driven e-government to support citizens and businesses though efficient digital platforms.
- Highlights the critical role of 4IR-focused research, development and innovation towards building innovation-led ecosystems for development of applications for digital service delivery.
- Developing future skills – shine the spotlight on how skills for the future of work will support government’s service delivery. Looking beyond formal ways of skills development to new ways of recognising and accrediting skills to better position workers and citizens for the future of work.
- Guide 4IR governance issues, recommending new approaches to developing policies, frameworks and standards in the context of a rapidly-changing world.
Also speaking at the virtual conference, Mduduzi Mbada, Gauteng Government’s head of policy, explained: “The team at Gauteng e-Gov and the 4IR panel have been able to pull together a comprehensive strategy that is going to catapult the Gauteng city region and really get us to achieve what is outlined in the GGT, which is our vision to grow Gauteng into the home of artificial intelligence, 4IR and innovation.
“As the premier would say, ‘we want to Gauteng to become the Silicon Valley of Africa’. The responsibility now falls on us within the various departments to implement this strategy; we have no excuses.”
As part of the implementation of the strategy, the e-government department will soon rollout the third phase of the Gauteng Broadband Network, to bridge the digital divide and address inequality in the province’s communities, especially in townships and under-privileged settlements.
During the State of the Nation Address earlier this year, president Cyril Ramaphosa outlined his vision of building new post-apartheid cities driven by smart technologies. He noted the cities are being conceptualised in a number of places across SA, which include the Lanseria Smart City, the first new city to be built in a democratic South Africa.
Unlocking new opportunities
The Gauteng Provincial Government also announced the opening of the Gauteng Centre of Excellence Innovation Centre, developed in partnership with Microsoft, to address ICT skills shortages for youth, women and the disabled.
So far, the Johannesburg-based centre, which seeks to implement the fifth pillar in the 4IR strategy, has introduced several ICT programmes and training offered to the youth and SMMEs across the five regions of Gauteng in the form of workshops, online training, bootcamps, etc.
“Digital advancement offers a chance to accelerate the pace of economic and social advancement and provides the ability to unlock new pathways to rapid economic growth, innovation and access to services and broader participation in the digital economy,” said Lillian Barnard, MD of Microsoft SA.
“Microsoft will leverage its existing platforms such as Cloud Society to provide technical training for e-gov officials and youth in two ways – setting up an IT academy that delivers digital skills and building a B2B ecosystem by identifying start-ups which will develop artificial intelligence solutions that will support Gauteng's industry priorities.”
The centre will further provide a learning environment for technological developments and youth work readiness programmes, as well as equip them with various accredited training that will give them an upper hand when seeking opportunities.