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When disruption in government is a good thing

24 February 2016 7:00 PM

Disruption is messy, not something you would want for government but making things more user friendly will be a welcome change.

Government as an institution has been around a long time, it has been through many changes, some good some less so, but the potential changes ahead might be some of the best ever for you and for government.

E-government or electronic government has been a thing since the 80’s when computers offered an alternative to filing millions of paper documents. But it was not much more than turning complicated paper forms into electronic ones. In 2000 the idea of supplying electronic services was the big idea. With the rise of mobile communication came the idea of m-government and the use of apps. But there is still a long way to go.

What government is now

  • focus is on the State not user
  • users are required to duplicate documents and deal with multiple contact points
  • the system does not learn from past behaviour of users

What government could be

  • focused on you
  • Use a single contact point and reduce duplication
  • learns from your behaviour

User focus

Facebook and Google profiles have changed how you are represented digital, no usernames or ID’s, just you, your actual name with a picture that updates over time.

Reduced duplication

All user information should obtained and verified once, then used when needed by any other service authorised to access it. Because any government service can access it, you can do anything from a single contact point whether online on the phone or in an office.


The history of services you have used before are logged as well as life stage changes like marriage, children and moves to other parts of the country, the system may even provide prompts for areas of interest or request input based on your expertise.

South Africa’s ICT infrastructure is abysmal. Efficient information infrastructure that promotes economic growth and greater inclusion requires a stronger broadband and telecommunications network, and lower prices. The economic and employment benefits outweigh the costs.

Page 39 NDP Executive Summary

Where are we now

  • SA gov has evolved since 1st effort in late 90’s (see pictures)
  • Current version of online services are based on similar principles being used by other governments. It consists of a of simple interface, good search function, open data, plain language, multiple means to get in touch if needed (The department of Higher education allows please call me’s) and the app (yes, there is an app) has a dial and email option
  • Unfortunately not all work as well as they could and some don’t work at allIn the UN Survey of e-government in 2003 (the first one) SA ranked 1st in Africa and 45th in the World, by 2014 we had dropped to 6th in Africa and 93rd globally)

What should it do

  • Residents need to have access zero-rated by networks with the State either requiring all traffic to its services to be provided free as part of awarded licences or by subsidising access
  • We would need to create a Chapter 9 institution that compliments Home Affairs and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in collecting and securely storing citizen information that can be accessed with permission by other institutions and services for verification and service delivery
  • Reduce the size of the civil service from the current 2 million people to perhaps only 25% of that. SA and the UK have similar sized populations while the SA Civil service is four times the size.
  • Access for surveys and census collection would need to integrate with Stats SA and residents should have full access to the open data on the state of the nation. The SA Police Service has limited ability to co-ordinate investigations and no where near what is needed to deliver the quality and quantity of evidence needed to prosecute and fairly convict potential offenders. Study and work details should allow the State to inform residents of bills that may affect them or that they may be able to offer input on as well as allow employers to verify educational achievements Once Acts and Regulations are made law, they need to be notified to residents and business that will be impacted Business needs to have a profile that connects its registration to its trading and tax affairs to assist with access and approval for loans, grants, subsidies and input on what it may be required to comply with procurement.* Tenders will be centralised but the departments means for calling for tenders and the means to tender for even small things are not effective. Businesses should be made eligible through their profiles allowing departments to directly send requests to all businesses that have the product and comply with procurement requirements
  • Banking services should integrate with revenue collections and automatically prepare initial tax returns
  • Individuals that may be serving custodial sentences might have their profiles activate an alert for correctional services when they violate court instructions or restraining orders via devices tracking their location
  • Enforcement of other regulations like speeding can first respond as warnings before resulting in fines or prosecution
  • While there is a serious opportunity for abuse of such in-depth knowledge of residents the effort to secure the information and require judicial authority before wide access is granted would be preferred over old style systems where fraud and abuse is equally likely. The system can’t be built overnight but with other governments working in collaboration we can adopt best practices from countries like South Korea who pioneered e-gov in the 80’s and is ranked 1st globally. The shift to e-government helped drive the demand for IT and digital skills education. The resultant supply of which allowed companies like Samsung to become digital giants.

If you have not visited before, take a look at what you can find at

24 February 2016 7:00 PM

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