Ndabeni-Abrahams welcomes new govt cloud
Newly appointed communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams delivered her first official public address on Friday, just 24 hours after being sworn-in.
Speaking at the launch of government's private cloud by the State IT Agency (SITA), Ndabeni-Abrahams said history was being made with this initiative.
Still referring to herself as deputy minister on more than one occasion, Ndabeni-Abrahams referenced president Cyril Ramaphosa's stated ambition to provide leadership towards the fourth industrial revolution, and said SITA has a responsibility to drive cabinet-approved e-government strategy.
"We want to thank SITA for taking the lead in driving the fourth industrial revolution," she added.
SITA CEO Setumo Mohapi said SITA's mandate has always been about making life easier for all South Africans, rather than the perceived procurement of IT.
"How do we use technology to optimise public services, enabling citizens to realise their rights smoothly through technology? That's the question we asked ourselves, and this is part of the solution we've devised."
SITA's private cloud solution, which it defines as "an ecosystem of different clouds" for "exclusive access by government departments", is being implemented with the support of private sector partners Gijima, IBM and Huawei.
The initiative positions the agency as a cloud broker for government departments, providing orchestration and brokering cloud services across private and public clouds.
Ndabeni-Abrahams said the collaboration of different partners was a key step in ensuring government stayed aligned with the "big game everybody is going towards: the data game".
She also outlined government's ambitions to provide 'efficient' services that benefit citizens, such as access to medical records not being limited to a particular clinic or province. In addition, a single view of the citizen across departments would better facilitate access to government services such as social grants or schooling.
While much of her address focused on the positive benefits technology can bring citizens through enhanced services, she warned about the importance of protecting data held by government.
Ndabeni-Abrahams also sounded a note of caution about the fourth industrial revolution, and the importance of inclusion. "How do we mobilise the wider society in realising the impact of the fourth industrial revolution?"
She said a lot of the focus around the fourth industrial revolution has been only on "five or six technologies" and jobs.
Her department will embark on a skills development programme, she noted. "In terms of making people ready, [currently] we don't pay much attention. And if we do, we tend to confine people to particular areas, such as coding for Microsoft programs and all the others. How do we build the knowledge society? How do we ensure we build a capable army that when we introduce cloud computing, people aren't just consumers of services, but participate fully in the services space that's being created?"
She raised the example of the motor manufacturing industry in the Eastern Cape, with reference to the introduction of autonomous vehicles. "How do we exploit the opportunities? How do we ensure that not everything (including apps) comes from outside?"