SITA’s repurposing business plan finalised, says administrator
The State IT Agency’s (SITA’s) repurposing is moving forward: it is currently in the consultation stages and the repurposing business plan has been finalised.
This is according to SITA’s executive caretaker and administrative authority, Luvuyo Keyise, updating ITWeb on the progress in repurposing the IT agency.
Keyise joined SITA last December to work with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT) to reconfigure the organisation.
This process is part of the department’s efforts to repurpose some entities in its portfolio, following president Cyril Ramaphosa’s mandate to streamline government departments and entities.
Keyise explains: “It [the repurposing] is in the consultation and approval stages – we need to consult with all the key stakeholders but the plan within the APP [annual performance plan] for the department is that by the end of this financial year, Cabinet should have approved the repurposing business plan for SITA.
“This is so that in the next financial year, it is a full implementation of the repurposing strategy.”
Digital action station
Key to the repurposing is giving SITA the teeth it needs to be an implementation agency for digital transformation within government, says Keyise.
This is why the repurposing focuses on reviewing its mandate and business operations in regards to how it assists government with digital transformation, thought-leadership, digital enablement, advising government and coming up with strategies for implementation of ICT solutions, to name a few.
Keyise points out that one of the digital transformation objectives for SITA, for example, is the e-government strategy, which has been around since the early 2000s.
However, there has been no real implementation of this strategy, he says. “As government, we are good at developing too many strategies but when it comes to implementation, it is not there. Instead of implementing, we change the strategy and write another one that looks glossier and better.
“The focus on repurposing is less to do with developing too many strategies but how to develop a delivery and implementation capability. SITA will develop a lot of e-government solutions and initiatives but does not have the mandate to implement them.
“We have developed more than 55 solutions, which should deliver great value and assist government, but both SITA and the ministry [DCDT] it reports to don’t have the authority to enforce implementation…they can only advise the government departments.
“We are saying something must change, not only within the legislation for SITA but also in terms of the mandate of the ministry that SITA reports to, so that they don’t only talk about these digital solutions that should be transversal but they must also have the financial means to ensure implementation.
“This is one of the areas we are looking at in terms of the remodelling of SITA; otherwise, we will continue to talk forever but have no teeth to implement.”
Upping research, development, innovation
The second area of the repurposing focuses on boosting the thought-leadership for SITA, as this has reduced in the last couple of years, especially on research and development (R&D), and research and innovation (R&I).
It has gone down because SITA’s main focus was on areas that bring “bread” to the organisation, he states. “We are now saying SITA needs to redevelop its R&I capability.”
To do this, Keyise reveals the agency has brought on board Dr Busisiwe Vilakazi, who has joined as the head of R&I, and is focused on beefing up the structure of the R&D team, to ensure SITA is able to look into the applied research perspective.
This move, he believes, will allow the entity to play an advisory role for government. “At least we will be able to say that across all government departments, we are active in the technology advisory role and be clear around the advice that we give them.
“We want to be active in doing research and innovation. This is not only for SITA to hire a lot of people that will focus on R&I, but also to better the relationship with institutions like the CSIR and TIA [Technology Innovation Agency] and take part in what they do.
“This will allow us to bring innovations to government, as open innovation and open solutions.”
Partnering for change
According to Keyise, the third element has to do with building cyber security capability within the organisation.
“SITA needs to have a strong focus on building a cyber security academy or presence of functionality within the organisation.
“We are investing heavily in that in this financial year – a couple of hundreds of million rands – to build cyber security capability within the organisation, with a clear focus on how to protect the data of the state that sits within the organisation, the networks and all other solutions.
“SITA has been outsourcing this function to the private sector without building its own capability, so we are now addressing this. We are also working in partnership with the State Security Agency, the cyber security council at CSIR and cyber response council within the Department of Justice.”
While the broader areas of the repurposing effort focus on SITA’s mandate, R&D and R&I as well as cyber security, the other part of this process is creating a self-sustainable model for the organisation, he states.
“SITA is not a funded organisation; we do not get funded but generate our own revenue. Therefore, we have to review the business model of the agency, so that its mandate is not to do hundreds of things that will affect its bottom line.
“The business model for SITA should be able to create strategic partnerships whereby it does not have to re-invest in solutions that already exist in the ecosystem.
“For example, cyber security: SITA should not be investing billions of rands in cyber security to rebuild what exists at the CSIR and the private sector, but should be looking at partnerships with these institutions and using existing technologies.
“We should find ways to partner better with industry to deliver on the SITA mandate.
“There must be areas where we are clear on partnerships, not tendering. I don’t want SITA to be issuing tenders forever. There should be areas where we can partner with the industry and work with National Treasury in selecting those areas where we can partner.”