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November 27, 2017

Automation for the sake of the citizen

Living in the digital age means that people have become accustomed to daily processes like banking, grocery shopping and watching TV being ltered through digital platforms. The time has never been riper for government to move from paper-based processes to automated solutions.

A GOVERNMENT FOR THE FUTURE

The world has moved from analogue to digital. We see it being transformed daily by technologies which give us greater connection to each other and streamline our lives through services provided at the touch of a button or the swipe of a finger.

Digital government services are part of a streamlined, automated future in South Africa.

From applying for small business licenses or funding, to digitally storing and searching for documents, enabling government officials to attend to daily out-of- office tasks while still being able to digitally approve and send urgent memos and more. There’s no doubt that a streamlined government is an automated one.

NO MARGIN FOR ERROR

Digitising government comes with many advantages, not the least of which is transparency and accountability. Digital processes become more traceable and leave less room for the human error and corruption that so easily creeps in with paper-based processes.

“The more you take the human element out of processes, the more integrity you actually have,” says Lemmy Chappie, Head of ICT and Resource Management for Gauteng’s Department of Economic Development. “Before automation we were having challenges with a number of memos getting lost, and it was becoming a serious problem. Now we can ensure that we don’t have lost memos, and when auditors are here they can find the documents they are looking for and print them at any time.”

Not only are auditors able to find documents, but future staff members will be able to trace and pull required documents, allowing for greater efficiency and service delivery within departments.

Digitising government memos allows internal functions such as human resource management, to be tracked and accounted for, creating a culture of transparency and allowing for better use of taxpayer resources.

“Automation makes sure that once you’ve applied for leave, you will not have access to that document until it gets to its final destination, and because it’s digital, there’s no way you can go in and change it,”says Chappie.

Having digital copies of documents speeds up the turnaround time of government officials. By empowering them to be able to work remotely through encrypted software, government officials no longer have to be office bound to approve and pass on urgent memos, they can do it while in meetings in Pretoria, Cape Town or London.

“One of citizens’ biggest problems with government is that we are not as responsive as we should be,” he says. “But as we digitise we are ensuring that we serve our people as quickly as possible and increase our service standards.

“It shortens the time it takes for us to be able to serve the citizen. In the past we had to tell people to come back in a day or two for us to be able to locate a document, but now we can say we will do it within a minute.”

Besides increasing turnaround time to the citizen and speeding up service delivery, government officials can track who approved a particular application and for what reason.

COMPLIANCE COMPATIBLE

Compliance is an important requirement for any government department, and traditionally, paper-based processes have been associated with meeting the Auditor General’s requirements.

However, the Electronic Communications Act (2002) made provision for the submission of electronic documents. And according to Chappie, providing these documents to the auditors when they come knocking is made easier with digital systems.

“When they come next year, it will be easy for us to produce any document that they are actually looking for with the click of a button.”

Besides the storage and searching of digital documents, the Boxfusion solution, Smartgov for  Administration was tailored to meet the needs of Chappie’s particular department, and the requirements of the Auditor General.

“What is critical for us is being able to comply with standards that are outlined when it comes to what the memo should look like. We’ve worked with Boxfusion so that those templates are in line with what is actually required as a standard within government.”

GOVERNANCE FOR THE FUTURE

“While it makes things easier internally, what is important for me is the citizen,” says Chappie. Using digital solutions like Boxfusion’s has the ability to not only increase service delivery and turnaround time in government, but it also has potential to reduce the perceived gap between officials and the electorate.

“Our people are digitally savvy, one way or another, and we need to follow suit and see how we can make services available and make sure citizens can access these services on their phones.”

We are living in the digital age, and it’s time that government processes, both internal and external, put away paper-based processes for automated solutions that will not only make governance more ef cient, but more transparent, more accountable and more accessible to all.

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