People 'n' Issues

SA Govt has Big Data plans

October 28th, 2015
Big data and analytics took centre stage on the second day of the 10th annual GovTech conference currently underway in Durban.

In  a keynote address, Deputy Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize said that government has access to an increasing amount of data – spatial, location, and that accumulated by citizens daily.

This, she said, will be used to deliver services to our people. As emphasised throughout the sessions at GovTech, information systems allow government to design evidence-based policies, implement them and achieve rapid outcomes.

“We are about rapid outcomes now,” she stated, commenting that while policies had been good to date, government had not had the tools to ensure that, when it comes to implementation, beneficiaries could concur that policy is on the right track.

“Big data is starting to feature in all high level meetings,” she said. “Those of you who followed the UN meeting in September will know ICT was identified as an anchor of the post-2015 agenda as we move to the African Union 2063 agenda of development. It puts us at the centre of a new revolution of coming up with outcomes that will put SA and the continent on the right path.”

Mkhize added: “There are issues of making public policy much clearer and firmer as we talk about big data. We are in an era of unprecedented opportunities. The world’s capacity to compute and store information is growing rapidly, as awareness of the benefits increase there is likely to be an increase of public debate on the balance of the benefits versus the challenges. It is a question of analysing and understanding it to be better informed as policymakers.”

Cyril Voison, chief security officer at Microsoft Middle East and Africa said that the dependence on technology is rising, and if we want to deliver on the promises of innovation and technology, need to ensure safety in everything we do.

“The security landscape has changed a lot,” he said. “We’re in the middle of a revolution of cyber-threats. We’re seeing cyber espionage and cyber warfare, although it is in its infancy, the US Department of Defence said the US is threatened by destructive and disruptive attacks by nation states and non-state actors. We’re also seeing cyber terror, for example, Sony was blackmailed not to publish a movie under threat of a data breach. This is just the beginning of what it could be.”

National cyber-security policies, he said, need to be based on sound principles, including the principle of managing but not avoiding risk, being outcomes focussed rather than dictatorial so that people can be innovative in complying, by prioritising critical infrastructure, ensuring policy is practicable, respectful of privacy and civil liberties, and based on existing international standards.

GovTech is being held at Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban and is expected to attract up to 2 000 delegates over the course of the three-day event.

The theme for the landmark 10th annual GovTech conference is Partnering For Service Delivery, with a sub-theme of Connecting Communities For Development And Growth.

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