Articles

The online registration platform for ICT SADC Ministers

sadc screenby Dumisani Sondlo

“Impressive!” “The online registration platform has made it all so easy.” “Saved us time and effort.” These were some of the reviews from delegates who attended the Meeting of SADC Ministers Responsible for Communications and ICT which was held in Ballito (KwaZulu Natal Province) from 4 to 7 September 2017.

As Chair of SADC, the South African Government through the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) and the Department of Communications (DOC), in collaboration with the SADC Secretariat hosted this meeting at the prestigious, beach-facing Fairmont Zimbali Resort.

This high–level meeting was attended by government players, people from the implementing agencies and ICT industry players from the Region. Among the key issues discussed were; how to prepare the region for the 4th Industrial Revolution through ICTs, an Integrated Broadband Infrastructure, a Signalling Hub for Cross Border Traffic, Digital Object Architecture, a SADC TV Bouquet to stimulate local content, postal service to support of Trade and e-Commerce, and also capacity building on emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Nanotechnologies, Net Neutrality and others.

The DTPS’ E-skills Innovation unit staff at Strand office in Cape Town developed the online registration platform for this meeting in response to a request by the ICT International Affairs and Trade Branch. “To demonstrate the digital revolution, we decided on a paperless, secure, online process where Ministers and their delegations from all across the SADC region would seamlessly register and have their logistics coordinated centrally,” says Ms Nonkqubela Jordan-Dyani, DDG International.

The Branch found a willing and capable internal partner in the form of the DTPS’ E-skills Innovation staff who are based in Strand. These are formerly ISSA (Institute for Satellite and Software Applications) staff who are now working on ICT innovations as part of the ICT Information Society Development and Research (ISAD&R) Branch.

“We wanted a platform that would provide meeting, accommodation and logistical information to delegates before they arrive. One which would automatically allocate each delegate their appropriate protocol services, choice of sessions to attend, and even provide the venue’s restaurant with the dietary requirements of each and every delegate,” adds Ms Jordan-Dyani.

Having met with the Strand office staff, the teams decided on the specifications and the design of the platform. “For the online registration platform, we agreed on a responsive design which could morph into any smart device,” adds Mr Derrick Sonamzi, a developer in the E-skills Innovation unit who was instrumental in the architecture design and development. He adds, “we used multiple programming platforms; HTML5, PHP, MySQL and others, to give it a sleek look and feel, and to make sure that its functionalities are robust.” Using the blue and white colours of SADC, the development team at Strand also added a touch of the colours of the South African flag to the platform.

The E-skills Innovation team has been raving about the professional support that they received from Mr Sydney Malada and Ms Eugenie Mawoko of the IT unit in securing a hosting solution for the platform. With the platform ready, the International Branch then sent a registration link to each of the delegates throughout the Region. A total of 366 delegates registered online. And their information was then seamlessly shared with the State Security Agency (SSA) for vetting, and with ACSA for appropriate services to be provided to each delegate on arrival, at immigration services and upon departure.

Ms Regina King of the International Branch adds, “The SSA people were absolutely impressed! Remember they have seen online systems crash in other department’s events previously. And with this one, there were no hiccups at all.” The same data was further used to appropriately allocate delegates for the transport systems to take each of them to and from their respective hotel accommodation.

“Kudos to the development team” says Mr Tebogo Lekubu of the International Branch. “The platform is comprehensive, and helped to streamline the accreditation process. It made it so easy to even enrol those who arrived without registering. We would register 30 to 50 walk-ins per morning, some of them on our own phones in just a few minutes!”

Since then, the E-skills Innovation team has been hard at work, developing an eMall to be used by local SMMEs as part of the Department’s SMME support strategy. A prototype of this eMall received strongly positive reviews from delegates at the recent GovTech 2017 conference. And the Strand office will be now capacitated to develop e-government applications, in support of the Department’s Strategy on e-Gov and the National e-Strategy.

“That online registration platform must be re-adapted and re-used, because it is a very good tool for the Department and the State as a whole,” adds Mr Lekubu.

SmartGov System

Smartgov articleWHAT IS SMARTGOV SYSTEM?

It is a new IT system that enables users to work electronically to request for leave. All employees can now conveniently request and approve leave online.
It enables users to make leave requests and approve leave wherever they are and know the status of their request from anywhere.

Smartgov enables the following manual processes to be electronic:

•    Leave Management
•    Submission (memo) generation etc.

WHY DO WE HAVE IT?

•    Move DTPS from manual paper-based government to electronic government.
•    DTPS to lead by example in the use of ICT in the public sector for service delivery.

AUTOMATED PROCESSES

•    Leave Request and Approval
•    The Submissions and Memo’s: Electronic Submissions / Memo’s generation and approval will be done later. 

SMARTGOV BENEFITS:

•    Submit online
•    Reduce delays in approval process
•    Track progress at all times
•    Respond online
•    No Loss of documentation
•    Reduce audit findings on poor manual controls
•    Improves efficiency – reduce cost and increase productivity
•    Access on the move
•    Enforce departmental standards on leave/submissions/memo response times.
•    To make DTPS to lead by example in the use of ICT in the public sector as an ICT department.

WHEN IS IT COMING?
The Smartgov Application for Leave of Absence is in use from 7 August 2017.
e-Submissions is in the process of being rolled out and training will be scheduled as soon as the going live date is set.

MISAVA Agence for Digital Identifiers (MISADI)

This project (Digital Object Architecture) should be understood within the context of a broader national e-strategy that will facilitate growth and innovation through policy and strategic interventions in the public and private sectors.  To date, an institutional arrangement for the DOA has been approved by Cabinet, referred to as MISAVA. MISADI will be responsible for establishment of infrastructure, administration and management of the DOA in South Africa. Amongst the critical functions of MISADI would be to set-up a Portal, enhance infrastructure security and serve as a multifactor identification (e-authentication repository).

The DTPS will be responsible for ensuring the prevalence of requisite policy and regulatory environment to stimulate digital object architecture implementation, in support of the development of a knowledge economy and the social and economic advancement of South Africa.

The National Development Plan (NDP) vision states that “ICT will underpin the development of a dynamic Knowledge Society and Knowledge Economy that is more inclusive and prosperous”. The South African NDP outlines Government’s commitment to building a more inclusive society in order to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality in the country by 2030. It sets out specific steps and targets to achieve an “inclusive and prosperous society” where “opportunity is determined not by birth but by ability, education and hard work”.

Pursuant to this vision, the Department has developed a National Integrated Information and Communication Technology (ICT) White Paper, which amongst other policies pronounces on internet economy and digital transformation.

Cabinet approved the establishment of a Multi-Primary Administrator (MPA) with a Board, to oversee the administration of Handle Identifiers within the Digital Object Architecture (DOA). The MPA that South Africa has established is called the MISAVA Agency for Digital Identifiers (MISADI).  In October 2016, the Department entered into an agreement with DONA Foundation (DONA) to establish an MPA.

The DONA was constituted as a non-profit organization in Geneva, Switzerland on January 20, 2014 and registered with the Régistre du Commerce of the Confédération Suisse on February 21, 2014. DONA is multi-stakeholder in character and, except as otherwise required by Swiss law applicable to non-profit organizations, shall not be under the control of one or several governments.

To facilitate the operationalization of MPA at a domestic level, a board consisting of DTPS, DST, SITA, zaDNA, CSIR, Academia, Registration Agencies (retrospectively), Civil Society, and International Representatives needs to be established as per the cabinet decisions of the 20th June 2016 and September 2016.

The purpose of DONA is to provide management, software development and other services for the technical coordination, evolution, application and other use in the public interest of the Digital Object (DO) Architecture, including its logical extensions and follow-ons, with a mission to promote interoperability across heterogeneous information systems.

DOA is an advanced and open architecture that provides a means for enhanced information management. Used in more than 75 countries in all continents, the DOA provides secure, global and decentralized methods of advanced information management and provides a conducive platform for the development of Internet of Things (IoT) based applications and services.  

The implementation of DOA has the potential to contribute to the implementation of the NDP, in particular by building capabilities and by enhancing the capacity of the state, and also by finding innovative solutions to complex challenges.  It will help position South Africa by bolstering competitiveness to participate in the 4th Industrial Revolution which is characterised by artificial intelligence (AI), connectivity and cyberphysical systems.

One of the strategic goals of the Department is broadband connectivity that provides secure affordable access for all citizens, to have education, health and other government services and stimulate economic development. Pursuant to this strategic objective the Department is in the process of establishing DOA.

Since the establishment of MISADI, the Rwandan government also established an MPA for the Smart Africa Alliance, and subsequently Tunisia is now in the process of establishing an MPA.  Africa therefore will have three MPAs.

Last year the Minister (Telecommunications and Postal Services) and Dr Robert Kahn (Chair of the DONA Foundation, and also Chair/CEO of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI) in the USA) signed for South Africa to become an MPA within the global system of DOA.  This followed approval by Cabinet for South Africa to undertake this role.  There are only a small number of countries that are/will become MPAs, including:  RSA, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, USA (CNRI), Germany, China, India, Russia and possibly Brazil.  The ITU may also become an MPA.  This is not a definitive list.

The South African MPA is called MISADI (Misava Agency for Digital Identifiers).  ‘Misava’ is a Tsonga word for ‘world’.  At the moment it is being run by DTPS and SITA.  Our long term intention is to provide for it in legislation and have a formal board, etc.  However this will take time, at stage, an Interim Board will be established to oversee its functioning.

South Africa still has to effect payment for our subscription to the DONA Foundation. The DONA Foundation is a not-for-profit set up in Switzerland, which administers the DOA system globally, in particular through the Global Handle Registry.

The key however is to contribute to promoting the use of DOA.  Critical in this respect is the development of applications and solutions that benefit from DOA, and to be able to scale up our work in this area by increasing skills and our capacity overall.

To initiate DOA implementation, last year SITA undertook pilot project before the Cabinet meeting, to show basically that the Handle Identifiers in DOA actually work.  However, now the Department is engaging with CSIR to develop an IoT project utilising DOA.  It will be a smart office project that will use sensors to control lights, air conditioners, heating etc.  

The Department is also considering engagement with some academic institutions to encourage them to look at DOA and to work on specific projects.

The Director-Generals, in the Presidency and DTPS met earlier this year to discuss DOA.  They agreed to schedule an Interdepartmental DOA Steering Committee to discuss the Implementation Strategy for DOA.  This committee is chaired by Director-General Presidency.

Skype for Business

Skype for business articleWHAT IS SKYPE FOR BUSINESS

The Department has implemented Skype for Business for its staff to work efficiently by using the latest technology for online collaboration. Skype for Business is a unified communication platform that integrates common channels of business communication and online meetings, including instant messaging, presence, file transfers and video conferencing.

FEATURES OF SKYPE FOR BUSINESS:

•    Find and add people to your contact list.
•    Check presence status and send an Instant Message
•    Start an ad hoc Skype for Business Meeting
•    Schedule a Skype for Business Meeting
•    Join a Skype for Business Meeting from your phone
•    Join a Skype for Business Meeting from your
•    Share your screen
•    Upload and Share a PowerPoint presentation
•    Use video in your meeting
•    Record your meeting

BENEFITS OF USING SKYPE FOR BUSINESS:

•    Your status and availability can be linked to your Outlook calendar
•    You can see when your work colleagues are available, this is particularly helpful for colleagues working in different    locations
•    Communicate with a group of colleagues using instant messaging, voice and video calls. This reduces business travel costs.
•    Hold an online meeting with PowerPoint slides
•    Share documents
•    Instant messaging provides an alternative to email for quick questions and comments,

Skype for Business can be installed on devices such as PC, Laptop, Mac, Mobile device and Smart phone.