SITA’s mandate is to drive ICT as a key enabler for improved public-service delivery, vital to ensuring convenience for SA’s citizens

The COVID-19 crisis and national lockdown have amplified the need for new services and public service adaptation. It has created a global ‘new normal’ and ushered in an era of enhanced digital transformation.

While the pressures and hurdles that need to be confronted during the COVID-19 period are very real, the SITA (State Information Technology Agency) community – executives, management and employees – have maintained focus, and continued on the re-purposing journey and made significant strides.

SITA’s re-purposing journey is embedded in a digital-transformation framework, placing the key focus on the organisational sustainability, modernisation of digital infrastructure, e-government platforms and services, research and innovation, and localisation to stimulate economic development.

The SITA re-purposing roadmap recognises that the ICT sector is key to driving transformation; and not only digital transformation. The development impact of investment in digital infrastructure increases access to information, scalability and networking opportunities, as well as job and economic opportunities.

SITA has a revolutionary approach to network architecture that is 
based on consistent and holistic management

The agency’s organisational focus is on research and innovation as this is the route to, in a sustainable manner, address digital inequalities and ICT infrastructure investment and development. Upgraded ICT infrastructure accelerates government’s business operations, quality and relevance of service-delivery initiatives, and boosts the economy.

Some of the key investments that SITA has made in the past few years include the Government Private Cloud Ecosystem and the modernisation of its data centres. Given the importance of networks, as the backbone of government services, SITA adopted a revolutionary approach to network architecture. The approach ensures that the network is intelligently and centrally programmed, so that the entire network is managed consistently and holistically, and that SITA can proactively ensure needed interventions throughout the network.

Given the inherent complexity of a digital-transformation programme, SITA made the shift to a platform-driven business and aligned the work on the Digital Government Platform Ecosystem (DGPE) by establishing three platforms, namely big data analytics; application programming interface (API) Middleware; and business process management. This integration ensures that everyone within the ecosystem derives value, as SITA continues to mature its Government Private Cloud.

The agency vision for e-government being a catalyst to digital transformation is premised on not just developing and deploying e-services; but rather about optimising government operations and services, and integrating data and systems. This means integrating government business to enhance public-service delivery and transform SA citizens’ experience. SITA has established the e-government portal, which serves as a single point of entry to the government’s electronic services.

Cybersecurity is a vital component of work execution, noting especially the exponential and accelerated growth of technology during this past year. SITA adopted a holistic approach to cybersecurity within the ICT security value chain.

Using a combination of processes and technologies, its information security level is conducted through 24/7 monitoring and analysis of security events to prevent, detect and respond to incidents.

As SITA executes on all these important work deliverables, being financially sustainable is key. Throughout its existence, SITA has always been completely financially sustainable and not dependent on government bailouts or subsidies. The agency successfully identified drivers for self-sustainability, as all industries adjusted to this national-emergency era.

While there was a drop in revenue targets, SITA’s plans were based on cost saving, tighter controls, managing outstanding debt and improved profitability. It is gratifying that, despite an extraordinarily testing year, SITA has – through various controls, optimisation and accountability measures – retained a sound financial position.

Supporting SMMEs
During the 2020 lockdown months, SITA also increasingly supported and promoted localisation; while unlocking opportunities for SMMEs. The agency implemented a new procurement business model that remains aligned to the SITA Act and the BEE Act to support economic transformation.

Given the considerable strain that the supply-chain management sector was under during the national lockdown, SITA continued to prioritise service delivery.

Within the SMME space, SITA obligated its suppliers who received contracts of more than R30 million to use the 30% principle in subcontracting contracts to black exempted microenterprises and SMMEs.

Networks are the backbone 
of government services

The organisation further unlocked supply-chain management opportunities through the implementation of preferential procurement enablers that included channelling 40% of its procurement spend to emerging suppliers and other preferred groups, namely black-owned businesses, youth, women, people living in rural areas, and people with disabilities.

Educational value
Corporate social responsibility is at the core of SITA’s character, and the agency focuses on upskilling for the digital era through various partnerships to establish cyberlabs in rural areas. Its latest and most exciting project is making the Fourth Industrial Revolution come to life by initiating a digital classroom project that brings technology and its applications to reality in identified TVET colleges in under-resourced areas. Students will be able to learn, first-hand, skills in augmented and virtual reality, 3D design and printing, mobile-app development, drone technology and coding as part of this forward-looking initiative.

These ‘smart’ classrooms in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, North West, the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga are part of a pilot project, aimed at college students in lesser-resourced areas outside SA’s main urban centres. The smart classrooms will be kitted out with drones, 3D printers, coding robots, virtual reality goggles and gaming PCs, once the process is complete.

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