By Edgar Mabothe
Opportunities exist for government agencies to enhance the quality of services they offer to citizens by embracing technology.
Technology plays a key role in government’s ability to provide better services to all South Africans. When our decision-makers in government don’t have a single, centralised system or access to accurate information when they need it, it becomes difficult to make meaningful decisions. An integrated technology solution is the backbone of ensuring efficiency in the public sector.
There are several areas in which technology could boost government’s services as well as its interactions with citizens. South Africa’s government hospitals, for example, still use a cumbersome, manual, paper-based system, leading to long, time-consuming queues before patients receive treatment.
The technology is available to introduce a paperless system which would shorten the queues by providing hospital administration staff with immediate electronic access to patients’ files. Another example is the criminal justice system, which is similarly hampered by paper-based processes. Once a perpetrator is arrested, processed through the courts and arrested, they are accommodated in a correction facility. Unfortunately, as with any paper based approach dockets can disappear between the arrest and the perpetrator appearing in court.
Paper-based systems are easy to manipulate, prone to error and vulnerable to corruption. South Africa needs a fully integrated solution, which enables each case to be handled completely electronically from the time the case is opened until the process is complete. If all the relevant information is centralised the opportunity for corrupt activity is heavily reduced.
In addition, the Education Department is still using archaic systems and methods to educate the country’s children, despite the extensive range of technology available to address these challenges. Every school should be enabled to allow pupils to interact with technology as a means of preparing them for becoming citizens of the world.
To achieve results, public sector organisations need to change the way they deliver IT services, and they have an opportunity to help drive transformation on multiple levels.
This can be done through new IT business models such as shared services and centres of excellence. Also, IT infrastructures can be organised in ways which ensure collaboration, transparency and information sharing in secure environments. New solutions and delivery platforms, such as virtual applications and public or private cloud computing solutions, can be used to streamline and simplify supporting IT services.
The introduction of e-filing of tax returns by the South African Revenue Services, has delivered massive improvements in productivity, efficiency and accuracy. In fact, SARS is one of the better-performing state-owned entities, purely because of its willingness to embrace technology.
In all the cases mentioned, technology is the answer to improve government’s interaction with its citizens. While most government agencies recognise this, implementation is slow. We need bold leadership from the government to make these implementations a reality.
It’s critical that evolving IT trends are harnessed to improve information integrity, security, availability and value across the enterprise. By combining strategic IT solutions across the IT infrastructure and enterprise content management, the public sector will be well positioned to create the transformed, intelligent government demanded by its citizens.