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June 26, 2018

Developing the local tech industry benefits both government and small businesses alike

By Dudley Petersen, CIO at the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

There is an African proverb that says: “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together.” I believe that this is never truer than when it comes to partnering for growth in the ICT sector.

In my role as Chief Information Officer of the Department for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, I’ve seen the power that technology has in the public sphere. Not only does it enable government to be more effective through the automation of internal processes, but it also has the potential to strengthen public participation in government, giving citizens a voice and bridging the gap between the electorate and the elected.

However, it’s not nearly as ubiquitous as it should be in the public sector.

That’s why strengthening and growing the tech sector should be paramount. Currently, government isn’t geared to build ICT solutions itself, and yet we increasingly rely on the digitisation of our daily processes in order to function most effectively.

Instead of looking for international off-the-shelf products that don’t meet the South African public sector’s unique needs, let us look to homegrown solutions. By partnering with local companies, we can work together to develop solutions to our specific challenges without having to duplicate effort or increase costs, while at the same time stimulating growth within our burgeoning tech industry.

And we know that the skills and knowledge to do this are right here. We don’t need to continue exporting expertise to develop South African solutions for South African challenges. I’ve seen the young people coming through the ranks, graduating from our institutions. These young adults are brimming with potential, they’re digital natives with the know-how to come up with inventive ways to automate government and bring us into the digital age.

However, it’s going to be difficult for us, as government, to tap into this knowledge base and bring these skills on board if we don’t strengthen our collaborative approach to growing the industry.

While we look to partner with small businesses, internal stakeholders also need to work together to promote ICT adoption and growth. Effective coordination between state entities such as the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, the State Information Technology Agency and the GITO Council is key here.

By partnering with local companies, local talent and internal stakeholders, we can propel the public sector forward with cutting-edge digital solutions, specifically designed to meet our country’s challenges. These solutions will liberate government to place increasing focus on our primary function: service delivery, instead of trying to develop our own internal digital processes.

To paraphrase that proverb, we’ll go a lot further when we partner together for growth in the industry. Not only will we be able to assist government in executing its vital daily functions, but we’ll be able to nurture young talent and foster growth within the local tech industry.