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Partnerships needed to realise digitisation’s true potential

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The evolving demands of the ever-discerning consumer continue to give impetus to the private and public sector to offer customised digitisation solutions that meet their needs.
This is according to David Mphelo, GM: public sector at MTN Business, addressing delegates at the Public Sector ICT Forum in Johannesburg. He says that as the industry is battling with the full implementation of the IT buzzwords that were conceptualised decades ago such as big data and cloud as the back-end system that supports the complete adoption of these solutions often lags behind.
“The days of talking about access to mobile broadband are coming to an end, we need to talk about and develop value-added solutions that access to broadband creates,” says Mphelo.
He says the public sector is faced with a challenge of striking a balance between running the country efficiently in the face of ageing infrastructure, while ensuring efficient delivery of service and contending with ever changing citizen’s needs.
“Accelerated digitisation is key,” Mphelo says. “However an effective digitisation strategy requires strategic planning and implementation, no one has the monopoly of knowledge and expertise, therefore collaboration between the public and private sector is key.”
To reach an advanced stage of digitisation and realise the wide-ranging benefits it offers, Mphelo believes the public sector needs support from government and the private sector.
“The private sector has the technology, the skills, and the expertise to fill in the gaps that are making the digital journey a challenge for public sector organisations. The private sector can help government achieve significant improvements in the citizen experience through offering supporting solutions that enable shared services and e-procurement tools. These can considerably improve the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and transparency of government operations.”
A large part of the problem, Mphelo says, is changing the complexity of processes public sector agencies face. Complexity is the greatest barrier to achieving digital transformation and unlocking the value of today’s digital economy.
Reducing silos and building towards the single view of the citizen is key to effective e-government, he adds. Technology solutions that streamline processes and improve interactions are therefore essential. “It doesn’t make the task easier when the complexity of large-scale digital projects requires specialised skills and expertise that come at a high price and are often in short supply.”
Alluding to the importance of digitalisation at country level, Mphelo cites a 2010 study by PwC’s strategy consultant Strategy& which found that digitisation multiplies the benefits of connectivity, as it generates three times more economic benefits than broadband alone. The study also noted that digitisation contributes positively to job creation and countries in the advanced digitisation stage reap 20% more economic benefits than countries at the start of their digitisation journeys.
Mphelo lauds the strides that has been made in the last few years of broadening access to broadband, saying that 85% of households have access to at least one cellular phone, while at least one member in each household has access to the internet.
Mandla Mkhwanazi, digital business leader and chief process officer at Transnet Group, argrees, saying state-owned entities and the public sector should share best practise to avoid duplication and ensure uniformity and consistency of quality service delivery.
Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane, CIO of the Department of Water & Sanitation, concedes that, with the exception of few pockets of excellence, the public sector is not showing visible increase in usage of technology. She said that public sector CIOs are working hard to improve the uptake and usage of ICT solutions.
Consultant and broadcaster Victor Kgomoeswana, adds that poverty, ignorance and disease are the enemies of development on the African continent. “Have the CIOs developed policies and workable solutions that address these challenges? If ICT policies do not give power to individuals, they are outdated – working solutions are about speed, agility and security.”