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ICT collaboration will make government better

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Kathy Gibson reports from IDC Cloud and Data Centre Roadshow in Rosebank – There is still a fair amount of scepticism about the implementation of cloud in a developing economy, largely because of its perceived high cost.

The poor quality of connectivity and accessibility in the emerging world is another stumbling block, says Sulieman Patel, acting CIO of the National Department of Public Works.

“Just look at the uptime and quality on our public networks,” he says, adding that connection problems are the norm for the majority of Internet users.

“And if you cannot get baseline access into your home, how can cloud be effective?”

These three challenges – affordability, access and availability – are keeping scepticism alive, Patel says.

“So the reality: from a developing country point of view, how can cloud be a reality?”

He asks how business is challenging the telecommunications operators to make data less expensive and available to more users.

In the public sector, each sector in government has its own data centre. With 228 local authorities, nine provinces, 32 national departments and five state-owned enterprises this adds up to a vast number of data centres.

“With all these data centres, are citizens receiving e-government services like they should?” he asks. “No, they are not. Despite what we spend on ICT, we are not servicing our citizens effectively.”

The cost of a data centre, from a small server room up to a fully-fledged IT facility, represents money, Patel says. “We have to ask what the cost of these data centres is to us as a country.”
He asks why there cannot be more collaboration between government departments?

“The role of the CIO is not so much the technology but understanding the terms total cost of ownership, return on investment and service delivery.”

The cost is not just on equipment, but extends to power, connectivity and manpower.

If TCO and ROI are what CIOs should be focusing on, they should also be looking at real estate management and facilities management along with ICT resourcing and skills. Data duplication is another is another glaring issue that affects both infrastructure and people resources.

Simply collaborating to avoid data duplication would go a long way to saving time, money and resources, Patel points out.

Integrating on-premise data centre hubs would help to foster efficiencies, provide a high-tech converged infrastructure, allow for resources synergy, allow for the creation of a data warehouse structure, and could eventually drive the promise of e-government.

“We cannot say that we are an e-government-ready country. We need to look at how we can engage differently, and the data centre forms the core of this. But we need to rethink and re-engineer on data centre collaboration.”