The Gauteng Shared Services Centre (GSSC) is blazing a trail across the public service landscape, having developed a model that highlights the value in properly assessing, centralising and implementing ICT-based services for the province.
Having proven its worth by steadily improving the province’s internal processes over the past seven years, the GSSC is preparing to launch itself into a new, ambitious phase that will see it converting into a public agency, implementing a Web 2.0 strategy and delivering rich-media broadband for public use.
"Our starting point is always around the fact that the way society and technology have become interlinked, its very difficult to separate them," says Warren Hero, Head of e-Government at GSSC. "And its important to understand the context and that the rules of the game have changed and that the rules of the game will change even more significantly as we proceed."
In trying to understand the needs and environment, the GSSC has conducted annual surveys to learn what citizens’ unmet needs are, and has used that information to guide its service development priorities.
"Yes, 2010 is a central consideration, but it’s not the be-all and end-all," says Hero. "So we studied what our customers and citizens needed and once we understood that, we designed the services."
The underlying goal is to simplify and speed up service delivery.
"One of the core components is our approach to customer data integration where the customer has a unique identifier and, through how we populate the data, we are then able to see a single point of view of any citizen or customer in Gauteng," explains Hero.
He adds that tangible results have already been achieved with this system, specifically as a result of the collaboration with the Department of Home Affairs and SARS in sharing data.
Designing and implementing the backbone structure and setting up these relationships is key to the next phase of the GSSC’s evolution, particularly as it moves to provide more mobile-data driven services.
"Content delivery is core. Our programme focuses very much on our portal, and we then essentially strip out different parts of the transcation to make it portable on mobile phones and other devices," he says.
"So we spend a lot of time fine-tuning our shared services model – we are now in our third iteration as a shared services centre from pilot to being a confirmed department -and we now in the process of becoming an agency which we hope to finalise early in this financial year."
He says it was in assessing the requirements to achieve this goal that it was realised that there was a lack of bandwidth capacity, which gave rise to the GSSC’s province-wide broadband programme.
"The Gauteng Link programme is something we have conceived and is now in the process of being implemented – and by March 2010 we will see the first services to citizens."
The core objective is to achieve digital and social inclusion while improving service delivery by making broadband affordable to all citizens. Hero says the aim is to provide 1-4Mbps access to up to 95% of the province’s residents within three years.
"At the same time, we are deploying what we call high content, or rich media broadband, to our 20 priority townships and that will be above 5Mbps," explains Hero. "In the next three years we will cover all of Gauteng, and over a slightly longer period we will cover them with rich-media broadband.
"We believe that broadband and bandwidth is a commodity and the economic and financial modelling have indicated that even without 2010, the impact of broadband on the GDP of Gauteng would be quite significant.
"This integrated business plan has been incubated over the last 18 months.
"We have already done significant work around the design of our innovation centre where we have incubated every part of the network to ensure that we understand how the different aspects work."
He adds that buy-in in terms of utilising the existing infrastructure of metros such as the City of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekhuruleni go a long way to strengthening this business case.