R1.4bn cash injection for Gauteng's e-government

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Gauteng Treasury allocates R1.4 billion to aid the Department of e-Government's key initiatives.
Gauteng Treasury allocates R1.4 billion to aid the Department of e-Government's key initiatives.

The Department of e-Government, the division focused on ICT and innovation in Gauteng, will receive R1.4 billion this year to fund key projects.

So said finance MEC Barbara Creecy, delivering the fifth and final budget of the current administration, as well as the medium-term projections for the next three years.

The budget allocated to the e-government department this year is a R400 million increase compared to the R1 billion in 2018.

Specifically, the department's budget will fund the Gauteng Broadband Network (GBN) and creation of an e-services platform that will allow citizens to connect with government, according to Creecy.

The MEC revealed progress on the broadband network has been constrained by fiscal challenges.

As a result, the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG), State IT Agency, Sentech and Broadband Infraco are in talks to determine how to continue implementation of the broadband project through a revenue-sharing model.

The co-ownership and revenue-sharing model will likely see GBN integrated into the national broadband network, she noted. "Our aim, through collaboration and co-ownership, is to ensure outstanding provincial government facilities are connected and citizens benefit from ease of access to available e-services in the fifth and final budget of this administration as well as our medium-term projections for the next three years."

Broadband ambitions

As the flagship department that is driving Gauteng's modernisation agenda, the e-government department has identified broadband rollout as vital to achieving its objectives.

The department is looking to the GBN project to aid modernisation of government operations and delivery of services in a digital age.

Over the years, the GBN has experienced many challenges, resulting in delays in implementing phase two of the project. In 2017, the e-government department expressed frustration with SITA in the lead up to the rollout of the next phase of the GBN infrastructure project.

Last year, SITA confirmed it finalised the selection process of the service provider that will be responsible for implementation of phase two of the project; however, no further details on progress have been provided.

The GPG has reiterated its position to build an innovation ecosystem in order to become a leader in the ICT, research and development sectors.

In 2015, Gauteng became the first province to set up a department of e-government in the country, a move it described as firmly positioning the GPG to be an innovation-driven and knowledge-based economy.

It was established as part of a restructuring process to ensure departments in the province can seamlessly talk to each other. At the time, the provincial government said the department will oversee the rollout of the province's broadband network, which will connect all government buildings and various public service access points, urban renewal zones and targeted economic zones.

Boost for education

In the wake of the fourth industrial revolution, the administration is looking to technology to reform basic education and improve skills development.

In the State of the Nation Address, president Cyril Ramaphosa promised that over the next six years, government will provide every school child in SA with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device.

Creecy indicated the budget for the Gauteng Department of Education will also increase in this financial year. This move will boost the department's efforts to produce tech-savvy learners that will be ready for the digital age.

"Our allocation to the Department of Education, Gauteng's best performing department, in this financial year increases from R45.7 billion to R49.8 billion.

"R815 million is allocated for e-learning devices and e-LTSM, which will continue to transform township schools into functional ICT-enabled learning spaces," Creecy noted.

Furthermore, R18.2 million has been allocated to the Department of Economic Development to implement the Ekasi Lab programme, which includes the incubation of 80 township IT entrepreneurs.

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