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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.