South Africa is currently stagnated at the informational phase of the key e-government stages, says Gijima's Khaya Ngcakani. The South African government needs to depoliticise the e-government agenda, and, in partnership with government departments, develop accountable e-government committees, boards and commissions that include representation from all sectors impacting the implementation of a citizen-mandated e-government service. So says Khaya Ngcakani, Gijima Public Services' e-government consultant, who notes that South Africa's e-government initiatives are often large, 'big bang' initiatives that are almost always internally focused, and not necessarily informed by the socio-economic requirements of the bulk of the citizens.
According to the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), SA still remains holed in the first stage of maturity when it comes to e-government. “The first stage of e-government maturity involves using the Internet and Web-based technologies to become more efficient at providing information and some basic forms of interaction and transaction,” the department explains.
“It requires considerable investment in technology, skills and institutional capability to lift service quality, access and reliability, and demonstrate results,” it adds. As of 2010, SA was at number 97 on the worldwide e-government development ranking, the DPSA reveals. “All the countries in southern Africa scored lower in the 2010 survey than they did the previous two years. SA continues to lead the region, but it also witnessed the most dramatic drop in rank – to 97th out of 190 states, with an index value of 0.4306, behind the world average of 0.4406,” it says. Market research firm, IDC notes that IT spending in the government sector in SA totalled $1.47 billion in 2010, largely on the back of e-government initiatives. The firm expects IT spending in the country to grow steadily in 2011 and beyond, with government investments continuing as the key driver.
“IT spending in the government sector in SA is expected to show steady positive growth over the 2011 to 2015 period,” says Jebin George, IDC research analyst for Middle East, Africa and Turkey. “Achieving operational efficiency, better service provisioning, and lower costs through automation will be key priorities for the sector in 2011.”
The firm also states that SA still has a long way to go in terms of creating a sophisticated e-government infrastructure. Ngcakani believes the success of e-government initiatives is best measured by the proportion of a country's population that has access to government services. She notes that citizen-based e-government initiatives in SA are currently formalised and governed at the national level of government, when most essential services are accessed by the citizen at the municipal level of government.
She also points out that process-related efficiencies and an integrated, multi-tier approach to the modernisation of the government back-office would be greatly enhanced if cloud computing, specifically the community cloud, were considered as options as legacy systems, and retired infrastructure are migrated across government departments with related service delivery mandates.
“We are currently stagnated at the informational phase of the key e-government stages, and in order to transition into the transactional phase, where all citizens have access to e-services, critical will be wider broadband penetration, including a focus on rural connectivity, and also a review of the current service access channels as the citizen's interface to government services. “SA, at this stage, should be leading the way globally in the development of a mobile government strategy that includes mobile platforms and alternative mobile interfaces as the conduit to the services that government provides,” she concludes.