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Govt CIOs divulge top investment priorities for 2019

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Gartner says cyber security and data analytics will drive technology investment in 2019.
Gartner says cyber security and data analytics will drive technology investment in 2019.

This year, government CIOs will increase investments in cyber security and data analytics.

This is according to Gartner's 2019 CIO Agenda Survey, which says the increased focus reflects CIOs' awareness that artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics will be the top "game-changing" technologies for government in 2019.

The research firm's survey analysed data from 3 102 CIO respondents in 89 countries and across major industries, including 528 government CIOs. Gartner says 15 of the government respondents are from African countries, with 13 from SA, and one each from Lesotho and Nigeria.

"Taking advantage of data is at the heart of digital government, it's the central asset to all that government oversees and provides," says Rick Howard, VP analyst at Gartner. "The ability to leverage that data strategically in real-time will significantly improve government's ability to seamlessly deliver services, despite increased strain on finite resources."

Forty-three percent of the respondents agreed data analytics and cyber security will be the most common technology areas that will garner increased investment in 2019.

This means a shift in focus from cloud services, where, unlike last year, it topped the technology investment rankings. Cloud dropped from first place to second overall for 2019.

Howard says the fact that cyber security remains an area of projected increased spending reflects government's recognition of its role as the steward of public data, with secure transactions now table stakes for governments in a digital world.

"In today's digital world, cyber attacks are highly visible, increasingly malicious and costly, and they erode the public's trust," he notes. "Government CIOs have steadily increased their prioritisation of cyber security over the years and have gained executive commitment to vigilance in ensuring ever-evolving malicious attacks and threats are mitigated to the greatest extent possible."

Tech investment trends ranked. Source: Gartner (January 2019)
Tech investment trends ranked. Source: Gartner (January 2019)

A deeper dive

Sello Mmakau, former CIO of the Department of Home Affairs and ACSA.
Sello Mmakau, former CIO of the Department of Home Affairs and ACSA.

Sello Mmakau, executive director at AfroCentric Investment Corporation, shares a similar outlook to that expressed by the government CIOs in the Gartner report.

Mmakau, a former CIO at the Department of Home Affairs and Airports Company SA (ACSA), believes cyber security is one the top priorities for government department CIOs.

However, digital transformation and getting rid of legacy systems are still taking a lot of CIOs' time in government, he notes. "Data analytics is on their plan but isn't taking priority over refreshing stubborn legacy systems and migration journeys to digital."

ACSA CIO Mthoko Mncwabe points out that in the past year, SA has experienced major cyber attack attempts.

Mncwabe, former South African Post Office group CIO, is of the view that integrated digital solutions to improve citizen services, cloud services hosted in country, cyber security and fibre rollout will be the focus of government investment in 2019.

"I share the views in this report on the basis that it is also our number one priority to improve our business processes and digitise them. The second part is the delivery of stable IT; this is no longer a discussion as it has become non-negotiable."

ACSA CIO Mthoko Mncwabe.
ACSA CIO Mthoko Mncwabe.

Digital transformation

According to Gartner, when it comes to strategic business priorities, the survey found 18% of CIOs across all levels of government have prioritised digital initiatives again this year as key to achieving mission outcomes, compared with 23% from all other industries.

The survey data indicates governments are making deliberate progress toward designing and delivering digital services, achieving comparable maturity to other industries overall.

When asked what stage their digital initiative was at, 29% of government respondents said their organisations are scaling and refining their digital initiatives; the tipping point at which a digital initiative is considered mature. This is up from 15% in the 2018 survey.

However, government is still lagging other industries (33% overall) in scaling and refining digital initiatives.

Howard states: "To meet increased demand and evolving expectations of citizens for effective and efficient services, government must continue to enhance its digital maturity.

"Government CIOs clearly recognise the potential of digital government and have started developing new digital services, but now need to take digital beyond a vision to execution through digital leadership."

Mmakau says locally, most government departments are still battling with digital transformation programmes, hence investment is still around. "You'll be surprised that a lot of government departments haven't started implementing digital strategies at all while some are still battling to craft their own digital strategies."

Rise of the machines

The survey shows AI has taken the lead as the top game-changing technology for government CIOs for 2019.

Among government respondents, 10% have already deployed an AI solution, 39% intend to deploy in the next one to two years, and an additional 36% intend to deploy an AI solution within the next two to three years.

"AI introduces new insights and delivery channels that will enable governments to scale in magnitudes not previously possible," says Howard. "This will allow reallocation of valuable human resources to more complex processes and decisions."

Tech game-changers. Source: Gartner (January 2019)
Tech game-changers. Source: Gartner (January 2019)

According to Mncwabe, ACSA is starting to embrace AI as technology that will improve customer satisfaction.

The company also recognises there are emerging technologies that are likely to impact its operations over the next five years, he notes.

"Smart apps will be introduced to manage 360 degrees of your travel that includes booking and check-in, flight details, parking, tracking, payments and e-commerce. This will be critical for a consolidated experience."

Irrelevant rankings?

David Kramer, CIO of the Gauteng Department of E-government, agrees, to a large extent, that data analytics and cyber security will be top priorities for the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG).

However, he says cloud remains an area that needs significant attention and the department will continue to develop and implement plans in this regard.

"These issues are interwoven and need to be looked at in parallel, as successful and sustainable digital transformation depends on all three. Given where government departments are and what is being debated by CIOs at present, I think the ranking is interesting but a bit irrelevant."

Gauteng's e-government department was established by the GPG in 2015 to modernise public service and deliver on the vision to make Gauteng a smart province.

Kramer points out the focus this year will be on developing the department's cloud strategy, implementing big data and data analytics plans, as well as increasing cyber security capacity.

"We will continue to implement the five-pillar GPG e-government strategy. This includes expanding the Gauteng Broadband Network and this remains a key part of our investment in digital transformation. We will also give attention to developing the skills we need to sustain digital transformation in the provincial government and to develop a stronger digital culture."

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