05 July 2007
Information communication technology (ICT) is key to service delivery and is one of the essential factors in promoting growth in the South African economy, a report by research and consulting company ForgeAhead finds.
The National Government Research Report, released this week in Johannesburg, focuses on ICT development, management skills, convergence in cyberspace, cyberspace security and e-Government.
“National government departments are moving to citizen-centred service provision and not bureaucracy-centred governance,” said ForgeAhead’s research manager for national government, Nicky Pope.
“The departments are gearing towards results and attempting to be more service delivery orientated.”
Pope added the country’s ICT development was focussed on using technology for economic and social development.
To this effect, Pope said the Departments of Trade and Industry and Communication established South Africa’s IT Strategy Project (SAITIS) to promote a robust ICT sector, increase population usage of ICTs for economic and social growth, foster a knowledgeable ICT workforce and create a culture of ICT innovation.
The establishment of SAITIS has resulted in increasing internet services to schools, creating an academy for software development, providing community internet access points and installing public information terminals allowing for access to government services.
ForgeAhead research found future investment in technology focused on increasing internet connectivity, adding “there will be heavy investment in information security software especially in anti-virus, firewall and spam protection software”.
E-Government is the integration and use of ICTs within departments to fast track service delivery to the public through providing e-services in spheres such as education, health and administration.
Skills still required
The survey was conducted within different government clusters namely, the governance and administration cluster, the social cluster, the economic cluster, the justice, crime prevention and security cluster and the international relations, peace and security cluster.
The survey, conducted between February and April this year, involved two questionnaires given to both chief information officers (CIOs) and information technology technicians within the five clusters, yielding a 91% response.
The CIO questionnaire focussed on ICT strategies and polices, whilst the second questionnaire looked at the design involved in systems, software and hardware audits.
In terms of personal computers with access to the internet within the various clusters, research found the economic cluster led with 90% of computers having internet access, the governance cluster had 83%, the justice, crime prevention and security cluster registered 75% followed by the social cluster with 65% internet usage.
The report included factors which inhibited ICT growth and development in government departments and found “skills, staff capacities and budgets allocated for human resources” to be the greatest inhibitors.
ForgeAhead’s head of consulting Edwin Schofield added “the skills which are needed are just not thick enough on the ground”.
President Thabo Mbeki in his State of the Nation Address earlier this year also stressed that government is planning to improve competition in the economy, lower the cost of doing business and promote investment, and further develop high-speed national and international broadband capacity.
ForgeAhead said the current trend is that the government will “promote broadband [and ICT usage] not only for economic gains but also to achieve good governance”.