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Gauteng’s Broadband Network receives budget injection

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The Department of e-Government has set aside a sizeable amount to continue rollout and maintenance of the provincial broadband project, the Gauteng Broadband Network (GBN).

For the 2021/2022 financial year, the department has set aside R457 million for the GBN project, according to Gauteng MEC for finance and e-government Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko.

Nkomo-Ralehoko yesterday presented the third budget vote of the department charged with ICT and innovation in the province to a virtual sitting of the Gauteng Legislature.

The department’s total budget for this financial year is R1.4 billion, which, according to the MEC, will be used to fund strategic projects, including the GBN.

As the Gauteng provincial government’s (GPG’s) broadband project, the GBN has seen more than 1 500km of fibre rolled out since its launch in 2014.

The MEC told members that her department continues to invest in the GBN as a way to bridge the digital divide, address inequality and create job opportunities.

Speaking to the commitments made at the 2020 budget appropriation, Nkomo-Ralehoko said the department provided connectivity across the five economic corridors by enabling voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) at 31 sites on the GBN.

In addition, it rolled out local area network (LAN) connectivity to 108 sites across the province, she indicated.

“The department upgraded two core network nodes and increased Internet bandwidth from 5Gbps to 8Gbps to ensure faster connectivity speeds across the network. This was in line with pillar one of the department’s mandate to modernise provincial ICT infrastructure and connectivity.

“The department will provide VOIP, LAN upgrade of core network nodes and the network operations centre, as well as upgrading the Internet bandwidth to ensure there is a wall-to-wall connection, which will lead to the modernised and smart Gauteng city region.”

Even though it’s been allocated a budget of R457 million this financial year, ITWeb previously reported some of the GBN project budget constraints in regards to its phase two rollout.

At the time, Adriana Randall, the Democratic Alliance’s Gauteng shadow MEC for finance and e-government, claimed the department had turned to the Gauteng Infrastructure Funding Agency to implement phase two of the project.

The motivation to hand over management of the project to another agency was the result of budget challenges, according to Randall.

However, the e-government department refuted these claims, saying it is very much in charge of the management of the multibillion-rand project.

Nkomo-Ralehoko yesterday explained that in realising the vital role connectivity plays in the provision of digital services, the department has started to explore various alternative funding options for the existing network to generate the funding needed to continue the rollout of the GBN.

“With the current plan, working together with the Department of Economic Development, Gauteng Infrastructure Funding Agency, Development Bank of Southern Africa, we are glad to inform the house that the process is on track, and we are within our set time lines of completing the process within this financial year 20/21.”

Secure operation systems

The MEC revealed her department aims to maintain the industry standard of 98% uptime of the security operations centre by implementing the GPG cyber security strategy and cyber security detection and prevention tools.

As a result, an amount of R96 million is allocated for the security operations centre over the 2021 medium-term expenditure framework, she said.

“The department, as the custodian of the centralised computing infrastructure, migrated departmental applications, e-services and data into the provincial cloud-based solution.

“Going forward, the department intends to progress to a hybrid public and private cloud solution that will lay the foundation for the protection and securing of the Gauteng provincial data, working together with our municipalities to ensure effective and efficient creation of the Gauteng city region data centre, while ensuring there is value for money.”

Nkomo-Ralehoko explained that the open data collaboration will assist to ensure data is accessible, available to the widest range of users, non-discriminatory and licence-free.

“This will also play a significant role in a clear foundation in terms of data classification and big data analysis on provincial structured and unstructured data.

“The analysis of this data will ensure e-services and applications developed and deployed by the provincial government are more predictive, innovative and fully address the needs of the citizens of the province.”

Future 4IR hub

On upskilling residents for the digital revolution, the MEC said the provincial government is working to ensure Gauteng is a hub for the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

According to Nkomo-Ralehoko, the shortage of ICT skills and capacity to drive and sustain digital transformation, modernisation and the effective use of GPG’s ICT resources increasingly affects critical areas such as data management and cyber security in the province.

“The department, in partnership with institutions of higher learning and other partners, will continue to facilitate skills development programmes to ensure the human capital in the province acquires relevant skills, knowledge and competencies required by the 4IR strategy and the implementation of the e-waste strategy.

“To achieve this outcome, the department will implement the Gauteng ICT Skills Development Strategy to provide training to youth and government employees.”

Nkomo-Ralehoko is of the view that such a strategy will ensure township-based ICT entrepreneurs are supported, and that staff are fully capable to utilise the existing technology more efficiently and effectively to provide efficient government services to Gauteng citizens.

This will also be done in collaboration with ICT partners and higher education institutions, she said. “This inclusive digital economy will contribute to job creation, along with more safety and security.

“Five thousand GPG staff will be trained on an online platform to ensure they have relevant and required skills in the world of work. Also, 5 000 youth will benefit from ICT skills development programme – the action lab programme – and 100 will be placed for ICT experiential learning.”

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