Government has high hopes for SITA’s reconfiguration

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Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

The State IT Agency’s (SITA’s) role needs to be more than a “procurement agency” for government, says communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

Ndabeni-Abrahams made the comment while addressing the Public Sector ICT Forum webinar yesterday, saying her department is repositioning SITA as a digital services agency for government.

This move, she stated, comes amid added responsibility to her department’s portfolio of coordinating the country’s fourth industrial revolution agenda.

“Government must have its own digital services agency, which in this context, we see SITA being able to play that role, investing in digital and innovative skills,” Ndabeni-Abrahams stated. “It must give access to the innovators and other SMMEs to be able to innovate for South Africa instead of being resellers and redistributors of other service providers.

“In order for SITA to be responsive to local content, it needs to open up space for local innovators.

“We appreciate that we participate in global trade, but South Africans and Africans should be given an opportunity to complement the work that is being done by multinationals, whilst giving character to South African and African products.”

To repurpose SITA, the minister brought on boardLuvuyo Keyise as executive caretaker at the end of last year. This was after alluding to imminent changes at the state entity during the GovTech conference in October 2019.

SITA has a long history of accusations of corruption and lack of service delivery, among other issues. Faced with these challenges, members of Parliament reportedly also called for it to be closed, as it is failing to fix IT systems at several government departments.

However, government still believes the agency has a bigger role to play in the fourth industrial revolution, especially in affording an opportunity to SMMEs to come up with local solutions.

According to Ndabeni-Abrahams, repurposing SITA is in line with the state’s digital transformation plan, which requires an audit of current government IT spend and interventions in order to identify champions and priorities related to the ease of doing business and provision of crucial services to citizens.

On investing in digital infrastructure, the minister said her department is also working towards the reconfiguration of Broadband Infraco and Sentech, adding that, put together, the entities will be SA’s digital infrastructure company that will incorporate broadband, satellite, cloud and other technologies that talk to infrastructure.

Cost optimisation

In regards to service delivery and government spend issues, Ndabeni-Abrahams told delegates that reports by the auditor-general of SA have shown lack of cost optimisation and wastage.

“As South Africa, we need to figure out how to leverage technologies to address inefficiencies and therefore minimise the wastage that is there.

“As the department, we are working with National Treasury and DPSA to make sure we consolidate IT spend and be able to leverage on the numbers that we have, whilst we are trying to digitise the services by government in order to improve efficiencies.”

She said among the areas being looked into is the deployment of blockchain for supply chain processes, which must be transparent.

“Gradually, we do believe that government and the private sector will see a need to transform how we do things in order to improve the service that we render as the public service.

“Key to the use of technology is to avoid duplication…for us to deliver efficiently, we’ve got to make sure that we coordinate in order to collaborate for effective execution.

“We see the ICT sector being at the centre of these efforts.”

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