South Africa launches cloud scheme

By on 06/12/2018
Cloudy outlook: the new IT programme will support service delivery across South Africa (Image courtesy: Brian Snelson/flickr).

The South African government has launched what it claims is the largest government cloud infrastructure in the world, providing a base for the adoption of new technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI).

At a launch event, the country’s State Information Technology Agency (SITA) presented the new venture in partnership with private sector IT partners Gijima, Huawei and IBM.

SITA said the new infrastructure network will improve government services, increase security, and boost productivity and efficiency. In a LinkedIn post the agency’s chief executive, Dr Setumo Mohapi, explained that the initiative has been designed to answer the question: “How do we use technology to optimise the use of technology in public services – enabling citizens to realise their rights smoothly through technology?”

Cloud computing is vital to South Africa’s use of technology, said Mohapi, and could open up opportunities for developing AI, ‘big data’ analytics, Internet of Things projects and robotics.

Multiple benefits

During a panel session at the launch event, Mohapi listed some of the potential benefits of joining up government services through the new cloud infrastructure. In an article published by SITA and businesstech.co.za, he said: “This centralisation will deliver immediate opportunities for co-ordination and streamlining,” adding that it could also allow for improved disaster recovery and management.

According to the article, a panel of speakers at the conference argued that the technology could help the country in the implementation of its National Development Plan. Launched in 2013, the plan aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030 – in part through improvements in the quality of public services, which are seen as critical to achieving transformation.

The panel also said that the decision to shift government technology to the cloud could help fix problems with the South African government’s existing IT infrastructure. The benefits could include reducing the cost and inefficiency of running multiple stand-alone data centres; creating the capacity for client-specific server infrastructure; and providing the flexibility to cope with peaks and growth in demand.

Cloudy peaks

Minister of communications Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams told the launch event audience that the cloud infrastructure could help contribute to economic growth for all of South Africa’s population.

SITA began work on the government’s private cloud ecosystem in 2014, and has already introduced in-house clouds in KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State, the Western Cape and Gauteng.

The Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) was SITA’s first cloud client, with a proposal for infrastructure as a service signed off on 23 October. More departments are expected to move their systems to the cloud in the coming months.

About Colin Marrs

Colin Marrs is a journalist specialising in local and national government, as well as architecture and the built environment. Colin previously worked as digital content editor at Campaign, the advertising industry "bible".

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