Key IT infrastructure downtime 'not acceptable'
Recent IT system problems in the Home Affairs Department and Department of Labour's UIF uFiling site are not acceptable, says the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA).
Reacting to complaints of a general systems failure at Home Affairs and reports of six weeks of downtime on the Unemployment Insurance Fund uFiling site, IITPSA non-executive director and IP3 Chair, Moira de Roche, said IT had long been a key component of government service delivery, and that systems failures should not be allowed to occur.
"When it comes to government services, citizens have no alternatives. We need to be able to trust the systems that we have to use in this country," she said.
De Roche said in all key national IT systems, service providers were involved and public sector officials were tasked with ensuring these systems performed, yet systems were allowed to go down for lengthy periods.
"There appears to be no accountability, and there should be. Government departments tend to get away with poor performance in the IT domain because they are required institutions and citizens don't have the choice of going offline or finding a new service provider," she said. "Failures such as the uFiling downtime directly impact people who can least afford it. People who rely on UIF to survive may now have to reapply, as data of recipients and employers has apparently been lost. Think of people dependent on UIF to feed their families, or pregnant women reliant on their UIF benefits, having to go through the challenges of reapplying and securing their grants."
De Roche said there could be no excuse for failures in key national IT systems: "Systems should not go live until they have been rigorously tested, and staff must have the skills needed to manage these systems. Government needs to ensure that that employees have the right skills and levels of professionalism to be competent enough to provide systems that have been thoroughly tested, and proven to work," she said.
"Failures such as these reinforced the need for high standards of professionalism and accountability, and ongoing skills development in the IT sector," said Tony Parry, CEO of the IITPSA.
For over 60 years, IITPSA has stood for the highest standards of practice in the information technology field and is a member of the International Professional Practice Partnership (IP3), which drives the iDOCED (Duty of Care in Everything Digital) campaign. Members of IITPSA agree to be bound by the Institute's Codes of Conduct and Practice and to be accountable to their employers and clients for their behaviour.