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Public private partnerships required to realise true potential of digitisation

The evolving demands of the ever-discerning consumer continue to give impetus to the private and public sector to offer customised digitisation solutions that meet their needs, David Mphelo, General Manager for Public Sector at MTN Business, told delegates at the Public Sector ICT Forum in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Mphelo said that as the industry is battling with the full implementation of the IT buzzwords that were conceptualised decades ago such as Big Data and Cloud as the back-end system that supports the complete adoption of these solutions often lags behind.

“The days of talking about access to mobile broadband are coming to an end, we need to talk about and develop value added solutions that access to broadband creates,” said Mphelo.

Mphelo says the public sector is faced with a challenge of striking a balance between running the country efficiently in the face of ageing infrastructure, while ensuring efficient delivery of service and contending with ever changing citizen’s needs.

“Accelerated digitisation is key,” said Mphelo. “However an effective digitisation strategy requires strategic planning and implementation, no one has the monopoly of knowledge and expertise, therefore collaboration between the public and private sector is key,” said Mphelo.

To reach an advanced stage of digitisation and realise the wide-ranging benefits it offers, Mphelo said the public sector needs support from government and the private sector.

“The private sector has the technology, the skills, and the expertise to fill in the gaps that are making the digital journey a challenge for public sector organisations. The private sector can help government achieve significant improvements in the citizen experience through offering supporting solutions that enable shared services and e-procurement tools. These can considerably improve the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and transparency of government operations,” said Mphelo.

A large part of the problem, Mphelo said, is changing the complexity of processes public sector agencies face. Complexity is the greatest barrier to achieving digital transformation and unlocking the value of today’s digital economy.

Mphelo said reducing silos and building towards the single view of the citizen is key to effective e-government. Technology solutions that streamline processes and improve interactions are therefore essential. “It doesn’t make the task easier when the complexity of large-scale digital projects requires specialised skills and expertise that come at a high price and are often in short supply.”

Alluding to the importance of digitalisation at country level, Mphelo cited a 2010 study by PwC's strategy consultants, Strategy& which found that digitisation multiplies the benefits of connectivity, as it generates three times more economic benefits than broadband alone. The study also noted that digitisation contributes positively to job creation and countries in the advanced digitisation stage reap 20 percent more economic benefits than countries at the start of their digitisation journeys.

Mphelo lauded the strides that has been made in the last few years of broadening access to broadband, saying that 85% of households have access to at least one cellular phone, while at least one member in each household has access to the internet.

Mandla Mkhwanazi: Transnet Group, Digital Business Leader and Chief Process Officer, concurred. He said state-owned entities and the public sector should share best practise to avoid duplication and ensure uniformity and consistency of quality service delivery.

Mmamathe Makhekhe-Mokhuane: Chief Information Officer for the Department of Water & Sanitation, conceded that with the exception of few pockets of excellence, the public sector is not showing visible increase in usage of technology. She said that public sector CIOs are working hard to improve the uptake and usage of ICT solutions.

Victor Kgomoeswana, Consultant and Broadcaster, said poverty, ignorance and disease are the enemies of development on the African continent. “Have the CIOs developed policies and workable solutions that address these challenges? If ICT policies do not give power to individuals, they are outdated – working solutions are about speed, agility and security,” said Kgomoeswana.


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