Kathy Gibson reports – The State IT Agency (SITA) today launched the Microsoft SITA Ndivho Innovation Centre that, combined with an SMME development programme, aims to unlock efficiencies in service delivery and create opportunities for new services.

Lucas Mogashoa, executive: corporate and digital strategies at SITA, comments: “Ndivho means knowledge and we will use this hub for knowledge sharing and co-creation to come up with solutions for government and SITA internally.

“We will use the innovation centre for ideation, and for ensuring those ideas are implemented.”

The SITA Innovation Centre programme is multi-pronged with various partner collaborations. The services and benefits in the Ndivho Innovation Centre will be enabled predominantly through Microsoft Cloud-enabled solutions in the areas of Critical Infrastructure, Public Safety & Justice and Defense and Intelligence.

In addition, the centre will showcase the transformative value of Microsoft’s cloud services such as Azure, its collaboration solutions Microsoft 365 and business solutions Dynamics 365. However, the centre is not limited to Microsoft technologies and provides an innovation platform for various technology investments.

Lillian Barnard, CEO of Microsoft South Africa, says: “We have been on a strategic partners journey with SITA for a long time, and have come a long way.

“Government at all levels is looking at digital transformation, accelerated by Covid-19. And it is heartening to see how government has showed up in the last two years, and is capitalising on the investments already made in the Microsoft stack.

“Digital transformation is here to stay,” Barnard says. “We support SITA’s vision to digitalise government and want to ensure we play a role.

“We have a shared commitment to drive economic growth for the country: as our global CEO says, wherever we operate at Microsoft, we have to ensure we create economic surplus.

“I believe this partnership demonstrates our commitment to the country and to empower every person and company.”

Microsoft has made a significant investment in the new innovation centre, and also in the Microsoft Enterprise Skills Initiative and the Microsoft Community Training Platform, which will be used by internal SITA employees to continue their training and reskilling  in key areas.

The Emerging Partner Programme delivers business development support and funding to black-owned SMMEs, with the goal of growing a sustainable, diversified and inclusive supply chain.

As the country moves further in the fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and companies speed their digitalisation strategies, Microsoft is actively working on continued investment to areas where scarce skills exist.

The company has partnered with SITA on SMME development to help these companies deliver services to government in all the geographic regions of the country.

“We are serious about investing in South Africa and the rest of Africa,” says Barnard. “It’s no secret we have a shortage of cloud skills in the country, and we want to make sure we play a role in alleviating. This is where Ndivho comes in, by providing skills for SITA employees and SMMEs.”

The Emerging Partner Programme identifies and provides ICT SMMEs with training to accelerate their journey to Microsoft Gold partner status. The programme is currently underway and 25 SMMEs from across all nine provinces are receiving certification training to help grow a sustainable, diversified and inclusive supply chain that contributes more broadly to economic growth in the country.

Luvuyo Keyise, interim MD of SITA, comments: “The SITA-Microsoft Innovation Centre is borne out of fundamental belief to reshape the public delivery landscape through investment in ICT developments and trends that emphasise the drive of SITA to shift the public sector culture towards greater innovation, tech integration and collaboration. The centre is a key component of the bigger plan to support modernisation, SMME development and ICT enabled service delivery that will deliver inclusive growth for the country.”

He adds that the opening of the Ndivho Innovation Centre marks the beginning of a new era. “We are now moving beyond talking and getting things done.

“At SITA, we are working to develop skills, but also create opportunities for new business.”

He points out the government will help by creating a legislative landscape the makes it easier for SMMEs to do business with the state.

By partnering with one another and with bigger companies, Keyise says SMMEs can access up to R8-billion rand of business opportunities with SITA.