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City of Joburg prioritises cloud for customer-centric smart future


Johannesburg, 12 May 2022
Read time 3min 50sec
John Bosco Arends, group head of information and network technology operations and chartered CIO Council chairperson at the City of Johannesburg.
John Bosco Arends, group head of information and network technology operations and chartered CIO Council chairperson at the City of Johannesburg.

The move to cloud is a key focus for the City of Johannesburg (COJ) Metropolitan Municipality, but as it is a major metro, the migration must be prioritised according to the impact it will have.

This is according to John Bosco Arends, group head of information and network technology operations and chartered CIO Council chairperson at the City of Johannesburg, who was speaking at the first event in the AWS Cloud Series 2022 last week.

Arends said: “We have three key strategic cloud pillars – a cloud first policy; making sure we comply with local pieces of legislation in terms of cloud presences; and we will only use a hybrid cloud environment. This means we need to make sure that while DR and production facilities are in the cloud, but to protect the data, citizens and services, we must also keep the data safe and available on premises with a high availability hybrid infrastructure. COJ realised some time ago that our cloud journey has always been greyed out by data security fears, and that is an unfortunate reality.”

“We have so many services in Johannesburg that want to be first to cloud, but we have to prioritise them,” Arends said. “Any organisation must prioritise its cloud focus, looking at which areas will deliver the best value, result in the least effort or have the greatest impact on their bottom line.”

COJ’s key focus areas when prioritising the move to cloud included integrated services in high impact areas, he said. “One priority area is to ensure we have an integrated city – and billing is at the core of this. Because of the impact of billing, the billing transformation project is a key priority. Another priority is a smart city. We have a smart city programme which is prioritising things that will impact citizens, such as the smart safety and security systems in use in central cities. Other cloud priorities for COJ are customer centric service delivery – at the core, it means we need to understand who each citizen is.”

On overcoming challenges in the cloud journey, he said: “You can only go on a cloud journey if you achieve stakeholder engagement – if people don’t understand what going to cloud means for them, you will always have resistance. Also fundamental is you need to make sure you have a business sponsor. It’s important to choose one who will gain the most from having business anywhere anytime. Make sure that from an ICT perspective, you are sitting at the table where decisions are happening – don’t become the help desk, be the person that drives outcomes, performance, delivery and service guarantees.”

Rashika Ramlal, AWS SA executive director and country manager for public sector.
Rashika Ramlal, AWS SA executive director and country manager for public sector.

Arends also noted: "When we look at the cloud, everything up in the air has to come back to earth, so make sure that your connectivity infrastructure that links you to it is failproof to allow continued connectivity to your environment.”

Arends said: “To address the connectivity challenge, we need to ensure that people can connect to the city, with any platform or device, so we are working on developing our omnichannel capability. We also need to build a supporting infrastructure for connectivity to happen; and are looking to work with SMME startups where local people manage the grid in local areas. We are also planning to roll out another 2 000 Wi-Fi hotspots across Johannesburg in the next financial year. Not everyone has a smartphone, so we need to provide vehicles for access, such as walk-in centres where people who aren’t technology literate can be helped to use a kiosk to access certain services.”

Rashika Ramlal, public sector country manager at AWS in South Africa concluded: “Societal impact, the customer and the citizen are at the heart of everything we do at AWS. We have the broadest and deepest set of products, solutions and programmes aimed at enabling our customers and partners, and positively impacting society. Using AWS we can transform South Africa’s healthcare, education and government services so that everyone has great service delivery, equal access and equal opportunities. We are also working on a project looking at addressing the connectivity problem over the next few years.”

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