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Last chance to have your say on Home Affairs' modernisation plan

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South Africans only have three days left to comment on the Department of Home Affairs' (DHA's) White Paper, which seeks to modernise the department.

Home Affairs minister Siyabonga Cwele said the white paper, which was published on 14 January 2019, is looking for sustainable solutions to some of the department's challenges, including connectivity and networks, infrastructure, long queues, staff shortages and office space.

Spokesperson Siya Qoza says the new system will build on Who Am I Online, which was eventually renamed the Information Systems Modernisation.

The driver behind the white paper, Qoza says, is the department's need to deliver its full constitutional mandate to empower citizens as well as be a critical enabler of inclusive development and efficient government. "This process also includes a review of how we deliver our services to citizens."

Home Affairs has been replacing the legacy system of a `citizen queuing in front of a counter where a low-level clerk helps them fill in a form' since 1994, he says. Some of the current challenges are that systems are outdated and not integrated, and older records are stored manually.

So far, South Africans have seen improvements such as online verification of identity - the 'live capture' of fingerprints used in DHA offices and banks, and, more recently, the fully digitised process for providing smart ID cards and passports.

A new model

Full-scale modernisation, says Qoza, will completely replace "the legacy DHA with a new model that has a fully integrated digital platform, reliable networks, adequate security, professionalised staff and multiple online channels."

While the department expects the system to pay for itself, there is - as yet - no indication as to how much it will cost.

Central to the new DHA is a National Identity System (NIS), which replaces the current National Property Register. The NIS will be supported by a multi-modal Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS), which will replace the 'outdated' Home Affairs National Identification System (Hanis).

How the elements of the new DHA model will operate Tijana sourcing larger from original doc

ABIS, which has already been implemented, promises to provide all citizens with access to modernised government services, better statistics, as well as better planned and responsive services.

EIdentity

Qoza says the new DHA will enable a future eIdentity platform that will be linked to a database of identities, which will be verified against people's biometrics. This, he says, will:

  • Enable efficient and secure processes in all private and public sectors
  • Open up access to information and services
  • Prevent fraud
  • Reducing costs
  • Generate the big data that artificial intelligence needs to run the platforms all our lives are increasingly dependent on.

As Qoza explains it, having an integrated, fully digitised process with e-IDs means that South Africans can better take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution's promises, such as e-learning. The department will also be able to aid in creating conditions for globally connected small and medium businesses to thrive, he says.

Other outcomes include complete penetration of fully digital services for smart ID cards and passports, which are currently only offered in about half of the department's 400 offices.

The department will also, in the coming months, digitise the process of providing birth registrations, marriage and death certificates at these offices - creating 200 offices that have a largely paperless environment, adds Quoza.

Phased approach

Home Affairs has several phases for this project:

Three-year horizon:

Putting key elements of the new model in place, such as legislation and building the NIS; retraining staff; building partnerships with stakeholders and visibly improving services to clients.

Five-year horizon:

All core elements of the new model are fully functional, including basic administrative and core business systems, and required security standards are maintained. Partnerships and contracts with external stakeholders are in place. The NIS is generating substantial revenue through large-scale verification of identity.

Ten-year horizon:

The envisioned end-state is achieved with the legacy model fully replaced, world-class standards maintained and funding assured. The DHA attracts talent because of a reputation for ongoing innovation and staff development. The DHA is a crucial enabler of integrated e-government and an inclusive economy.

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