An accelerated digital government and it’s role in cybersecurity – Deloitte; Rand Water & Auditor-General of SA

In the first of four webinars hosted by BizNews, Tim Modise is joined by representatives from Deloitte South Africa, Rand Water and the Auditor General of South Africa to discuss findings from Deloitte Insights on the digitisation of government in South Africa and the the rest of the world. Covid-19 has accelerated the advent of a truly digital government. Prior to the pandemic, governments around the world had been making digital advances, although at an uneven pace. While some have made significant progress, others are still in the early stages of digital transformation. The risk of being ‘less than perfect’ was slowing the transition to digital in many public sector spheres. Added to this, the recent events in supply chain attacks, the rapid shift to the cloud, and the adoption of remote work have all made it clear that while governments are already operating in digital ecosystems, their approach to cyber security has yet to catch up. You can watch the full webinar below. – Claire Badenhorst

Gaba Tabane, Government and Public Services Industry Leader for Deloitte Africa, on what the webinar is about:

It was launched about five years ago by our global Deloitte Centre for Government Insights, and it has focused on the ongoing transformation of government. Now, every year over the last five years, various trends have emerged on what is happening in government and how government is dealing with various challenges. These trends are actually informed by research, surveys, and our own work as a firm in the trenches with government worldwide, not just here in Africa or in South Africa. In 2021, we have emerged with nine trends, all in all, that have been highlighted through this research and survey process. Now we are in this engagement to look at the implications of these government trends in 2021 in South Africa.

The nine trends include accelerated digital government, seamless service delivery, location liberation, fluid data dynamics, government as a cognitive system, agile government, and how it responds quickly to the needs of citizens, governments broader role in cyber and cybersecurity – particularly the whole cyber ecosystem – inclusive equity, central government, as well as sustaining public trust in government. So in South Africa, we chose fives trends. Today, we are dealing with two of those trends, and they are government in the digital space and how it accelerates digitisation, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as government’s broader role in cyber, how government adjusts itself to help secure the cyber ecosystem. We’ll be sharing ideas on what these two trends mean to our government in South Africa today, and how far we are aligned with the global thinking on where government should be moving as far as these trends are concerned. We will have other webinars that will deal with the rest of the trends that we have identified as relevant to our environment.

Andrew Johnston, Digital Transformation Ecosystem Leader at Deloitte, on how Covid accelerated our adoption of digital solutions:

We are living in unprecedented times of change and the digital age has brought with it massive amounts of uncertainty as well as significant opportunity. Products that we used to use when we were younger – videocassettes, Walkmans – are now completely archaic – it’s an entirely new digital environment. Retail has become e-commerce and ordering food has now become a double click. So as time progresses and the rate of change increases, the driving forces within the new economy are compounded. And as time passes, it becomes riskier and riskier not to embrace this change in technology and take action on it.

Last year, we saw something that was completely unprecedented – the shock of Covid-19. A staggering 250 million people have had Covid and what this has done is this has rapidly changed the world’s economies and forced people into new ways of working, relying on remote communication, circumventing the old ways of doing things, and embracing an entirely new virtual environment to continue as a society. This has been particularly evident in governments around the world, as digital is no longer a nice-to-have. It spurred into action things that have never been seen before from telehealth kind of solutions which were brought to society, virtual courts, and virtual education. Many unprecedented digital transformation innovations were also rolled out across the globe at rapid speeds to account for the pandemic.

The digital transformation is not just a nice-to-have, it’s actually really good for business and that translates into government. So typically, there’s a high correlation between cost efficiencies, better service, employee engagement, growth, and innovation, as well as enabling efficiencies when we look at digitally transformed organisations, compared to those with a lower digital maturity. This relates in a business context into profitability and cost savings. So becoming a truly digital government requires the development of a broad array of assets and capabilities, which we term digital pivots. To allow for widespread adoption, cloud is a critical element to enable organisations to scale rapidly, access content, and provide services remotely. If you have your architecture on premise, this can be very limiting and it’s critical also to have a cloud to enable the level of security that we would require to provide the service the way in which we would like to. Also, the volume and the speed of the remote workforce, which was required by the ontake of the Covid pandemic – this future architecture would allow for this ability to scale on very short notice and also to accommodate many people working from many different destinations, as well as being able to access data that is centrally available. Data mastery is another critical element, and that’s our ability to fully leverage the data that’s at our disposal and have it centrally available. This will allow us to provide more customised service, a better user experience, and also to create efficiencies in the way that we deliver our services.

Better workflows – so from an automation perspective, recalibrating the processes that free up the time of a lot of our critical resources in order for them to focus on the work that’s of higher value, rather than the more menial administrative tasks which can be automated. A unified and consistent customer experience – I think a lot can be said about that and it leans obviously on the data, the centralised cloud solution, as well as the architectural themes, allowing us to have these data points in one place so that they can be fully leveraged and organised accordingly. And then lastly, innovation. And so allowing us to do things a little differently, using technology to unlock new business models and ways of serving our clients. I think a lot of countries all over the world are spending billions of dollars around these key initiatives. France, Spain, the U.K., Singapore, just to name a few. This is enabling them to tackle these problems in a more agile fashion, allowing them to use these pivots to help them to digitally mature their capability as well as their service delivery.

Mogan Padayachee, manager of Innovation and Technology at Rand Water, on how they have had to adapt during Covid:

There are many potential opportunities out there in terms of ability to create resilience and sustainability in a water utility. Covid has certainly forced us to rethink our business model and operating models. It’s opened the door to innovative new methods for monitoring and managing our plants and operations, ensuring business continuity, and, of course, serving our customers. In particular, we are increasingly turned to smart water technologies, which is data-driven hardware and software to remain connected not only to our employees within our business but also to our critical assets, to our customers whilst maintaining a physical distance.

At Rand Water, we have an innovation hub and we have over 100 game-changing digital transformation projects, which vary from the use of satellite technologies to detect leaks on drinking water pipelines to remote monitoring and management of our plants and operations. We are leveraging big data to develop and have developed the first of its kind simulation models for water quality coming into our plants and networks. We are transforming our pipeline grid into smart grids where we [are] leveraging IOT multi-sensor probes to be able to measure and monitor water quality in real time. So the technologies that are out there, we are basically de-risking, adopting at a very fast pace to ensure that we embrace the challenges that are posed by Covid and we create a more sustainable water utility.

In terms of working with our municipalities, we [are] trying to create an integrated model where, you know, as a bulk water utility, we supply water to our municipalities and directly to some industries, etc., [and] we want to be able to ensure that we have a complete end-to-end view of the entire network, the reservoir levels, the water quality, etc. So that integration, which we call monitoring and integration, is now starting to basically gather momentum. And soon we’ll be able to see a very seamless approach from cradle to grave, or source to source, or source to tap in terms of water usage in South Africa.

Sipho Ndaba, Corporate Executive with the Auditor-General of South Africa, on government departments and cybersecurity: 

Many of the government departments, as well as entities, are found wanting when it comes to cybersecurity. We have seen a number of cybersecurity incidents that came into the public domain where it just demonstrated how vulnerable our government systems [are] to cybersecurity. We have seen some small improvements in terms of the measures that they are putting in place but it’s not enough to mitigate the risk around cybersecurity. And obviously, because of the sensitivity of security, we cannot name some of those entities and departments that are vulnerable to that for the risk of hackers exploiting those specific vulnerabilities.

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