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.

Intervate announces launch plans for Smart Citizen

Having already been successfully utilised to power the Johannesburg Road Agency Find and Fix mobile app, Intervate’s Citizen Reporting Framework service is currently being re-positioned as “Smart Citizen”. Designed to enable bi-directional engagement and communication between citizens and their local authorities and service providers, the Smart Citizen product makes use of the most universal technology that most citizens have –  a smartphone equipped with GPS and a camera. It connects citizens and authorities to help improve the environment, service levels and customer satisfaction.

8th November 2016 – Press Release, Marc Fletcher, Head of Marketing and Business Development

Says Marc Fletcher, Head of Marketing & Business Development at Intervate (a T-Systems company), “Our South African product launch took take place on the 31st October at GovTech 2016. This coincides with a new microsite ( and once we’ve launched the product locally, we’ll be taking it worldwide at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, Spain on 15th November.”

The free downloadable Smart Citizen apps enable citizens to interact with local authorities on different utilities; be it water, electricity, roads or emergency services, and each authority can decide which services they’d like to deploy within their reach. Citizens report issues and provide a photograph and GPS location of the issue, thereby equipping local authorities with information to locate and assess the problem. Accountability is provided by the Field Agent tablet app, which allows contractors to conduct remedial work at the location of the citizen-reported issue and mark that incident as resolved.

“Verification takes place by logging the GPS location of the field agent along with a photograph of the work done, which gives local authorities the ability to track their contractors and the assess quality of work, which was not possible before,” Fletcher explains.

This application provides the authority and citizen with the full feedback loop as the citizen receives verification of the resolved issue. This serves as acknowledgement that authorities are making a difference in their local community, which was not possible when the only means of engagement open to citizens was a call centre.

“As our tagline says, you can’t have a smart city without smart citizens, so we’re providing the citizen engagement part of the larger smart city solution,” notes Fletcher, “which starts at a basic level with infrastructure and connectivity, with the goal of building a truly digital city.”

Smart Citizen is already making a difference across South Africa. Intervate is currently working with the City of Johannesburg on their mobile app, Maru a Jozi to add the mobile communication and back end management component, while the VayaMoja app is an uber-like initiative for smart citizen public transport commuting.

Intervate is a Microsoft CityNext partner.

This program is a partner-led initiative that empowers cities to be more sustainable, prosperous, and economically competitive—with a simplified approach. It helps cities unlock their potential by delivering innovative digital services that can help citizens lead safer, healthier, and more educated lives. Cities can tap into the solution portfolios of Microsoft and our partners and innovate at their own pace, Smart Citizen is one such portfolio item and Intervate hope to expand the product to cover a number of the other Smart City sectors.

“In previous incarnations of the platform we’d marketed it as a service, creating bespoke solutions for each use case over the last five years,” explains Fletcher, “yet we have recently realised that it’s essential to package the platform and start selling it as a product, therefore making it easier for our customers to understand and by doing so speed up the roll-out of the smart city concept.

The best way to get the product out there is through the creation of a global re-seller channel,” Fletcher continues. “We’re excited to take our product global and we have no doubt about its value and usefulness in connecting and empowering citizens across the world, improving service delivery and enforcing transparency and service accountability,” Fletcher concludes.