SA Government’s Cloud pledge: a huge step for citizen engagement, service delivery

Government’s recent announcement to decisively embrace Microsoft’s Cloud Productivity (Office 365) tools will have a very positive impact on service delivery and governance.

16th June 2017 – Opinion Piece, Peter Reid, Head of Intervate

Last week, the CEO of the State IT Agency (SITA), Dr Setumo Mohapi, confirmed a Master Agreement with Microsoft, to standardise on Office 365 across all government departments and institutions.

National Treasury Circular 11 defines the details of the agreement.

Mohapi’s announcement represents a concise and progressive approach to Cloud migration, and eradicates much of the hesitancy that may have been holding back departments’ Cloud journey. Now, with the full backing of SITA’s framework agreement, they can very quickly roll-out Office 365 to their teams.

Government and its technology partners can now build new services within the Cloud, making them available to staff and citizens at faster pace and lower cost.

Backed by extremely resilient Microsoft architectures, system downtime will be reduced; and staff can move beyond time-intensive administration and process work – to now spend more time on value-adding citizen delivery activities.

Enhanced services

But perhaps the biggest benefit will be found in the various Cloud-enabled Smart Citizen projects now set to get the green light.

Our experience in creating apps like the Johannesburg Road Agency’s ‘Find ‘n Fix’, and the Community Shield (to report suspicious activity and crime), have shown the incredible power of citizen engagement. With the right tools, people become more engaged, supportive, and demonstrate greater community spirit.

With Cloud architectures permeating throughout every department, expect to see a surge in Smart Citizen services – for users to report problems with public infrastructure, find information (like public transport networks), provide data to inform better city planning, report crime, and more.

From a financial perspective, Cloud services will make it easier for local government departments to, for instance, issue municipal bills digitally, publish water readings more accurately, or send notifications for various kinds of upcoming license renewals. With clearer billing, and a more engaged community, revenue collection becomes much easier.

Perfect timing with local Cloud news

When National departments – such as the Department of Justice – commit to Cloud migration, it sends a very compelling signal to smaller public sector bodies and indeed into the private sector. If the very body that governs law-making is comfortable from a data sovereignty and security perspective, then other institutions can safely follow suit.

SITA’s decision aligns perfectly with Microsoft’s recent announcement that its enterprise Cloud offerings would be delivered directly from data centres in Cape Town and Johannesburg. It also links well with the Department of Education’s programme to give all school learners and varsity students’ free access to Office 365 and a terabyte of OneDrive storage.

Our close involvement in this Education Department strategy – through building the activation portal that gives young South Africans access to the tools – has shown the enormous potential for Cloud Computing to make a real difference in our nation.

In fact, over the past few years, Intervate has increasingly moved into public sector spaces, digitising processes and creating applications that make a meaningful difference in the lives of all South Africans.

From reducing the number of lost dockets at the Department of Justice, to improving public hospitals with the Department of Health, we’ve become excited about the opportunities to apply technology to solve the biggest social problems.

So we’re naturally ecstatic that SITA has announced a commitment for all public sector bodies to migrate to Cloud services, bring greater efficiencies and ultimately help to improve the lives of all 60 million South Africans.