The role of ICT in government is no longer just about solving problems- it’s about making a different in delivering basic services to citizens and making those service sustainable. 

This is according to T Faba, deputy director-general at the Department of Provincial and Local Government (DPLG), in his keynote address at ForgeAhead’s recent ICT in Local Government Summit.
Faba notes that times have changed and that IT specialists are no longer just focusing on solving IT problems. His example was that of Microsoft chairman, Bill Gates, now also coming to Africa and help with the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“We don’t have to wait until we are stinking rich to realise the awful amount of social programming ahead of us – and that ultimately history will not judge us on the next best killer application that we can develop and release, but on how we were able to impact on real lives of real citizens.
“We don’t have to wait till we have billions, like Gates, before we can answer our problems in local government. We can do it today.”
While Faba meant he words as encouragement, the harsh reality is that the cost of ICT is still one of the major issues local government and municipalities face in terms of service delivery today.
Other issues hampering effective service delivery in municipalities and rural districts include” poor infrastructure, an issue which lies with the effective deployment and implementation of Under Serviced Area Licenses (USALs); the lack of skills, not only ICT skills, but all skills; and poor budgets, which goes hand-in-hand with the high cost of telecoms and IT.
Partially addressing the question of costs, Faba notes that: “Local government should focus on the fact that ICT is there to enable municipalities and districts to not only provide service delivery to its citizens, but affordable and sustainable service delivery.
“Local government should be reminded that they are not there to make money and drive big cars like the private sector, but that they are there to focus on what they have to deliver – basic services.”
Earlier this year, at a meeting where all the mayors convened, five strategic key performance areas (KPAs) were identified for local government and municipalities to realise their mandates – enabling the municipality to provide cost effective administration for efficient service delivery.
Says Faba: “At this conference we fashioned the blueprint of what was to become the Strategic Priorities for local government for the next five years.
“The three points which emerged as the axis around which our efforts for the next term must gravitate are: mainstreaming hands-on support; structure and governance; and policy, regulatory and fiscal endeavours.
Mainstreaming hands-on support, notes Faba, puts local government at the centre of all our collective efforts.
“Through the Project Consolidate intervention we have demonstrated that, with a move away from a Pretoria-based high-horse approach to a more practicable engagement model, certain gains can be achieved. We have managed to consolidate the efforts of all sector departments, thereby ensuring that we do not duplicate our effort.”
Mainstreaming this campaign entails bringing the issues in from the margins and placing them higher up on the agenda.
“For ICT this requires that we provide better coordinated support to ensure the highest possible return on our investment in infrastructure, skills development and governance. It calls on us to move away from competing with one another.
“Where we duplicate our efforts on infrastructure development we must consolidate. Where we duplicate our support in terms of skills development, we must co-ordinate,” he stresses.
Faba admits that ICT at municipal level has not always enjoyed the proper attention and focus it deserves. In many instances, planning is poor and the budget lacking.
“As the department mandated to support local government administratively, we intend to ensure that ICT gets the proper attention it deserves,” he says.