Photo\: Rolf Vennenbernd
Photo\: Rolf Vennenbernd

Digital SA: What the next govt needs to deliver

By Wesley Diphoko Time of article published May 10, 2019

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CAPE TOWN – South Africa is left with 10 years to achieve the National Development Plan (NDP) 2030 Goals. These will remain a guide for the next government in terms of areas that need attention. The plan is in place and, therefore, there’s more of a need for implementation.

The country has a unique opportunity to use technology to achieve its goals in the next 10 years. This is what Estonia did to be ranked the second of all countries on the social progress index for personal and political rights.

In 1999 Estonia’s gross domestic product (GDP) was at $5.7 billion (R81.72bn). It is now a $26bn economy. This exponential leap is the result of the country’s pivot to technology and digital transformation.

When Estonia regained its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, it had an opportunity to completely rethink the role of the government and redesign how it would operate, what services it would provide and how it would achieve its goals through internet technologies.

Technology played a critical role in the transformation of the country. Estonia’s leaders designed an e-government strategy that has enabled them to be regarded as the world leader in digital government.

Its e-government strategy was designed around decentralisation, interconnectivity, openness and cyber-security. Central to the model of e-Stonia is a digital identity.

The country worked towards ensuring that all its citizens had an electronic ID card to access government services. This card was embedded with a chip that holds basic information about the card holder.

Estonians use these to vote, review and edit their automated tax forms online, apply for social security benefits, and access banking services and public transportation.

Alternatively, Estonians can do the same with mobile ID card on cellphones.

Parents and students use Estonia’s e-School to track assignments, curriculum, and grades and to collaborate with teachers. Estonia aggregates in real time diverse health information from various sources into a single record for each citizen, and these records don’t reside on a single database.

Each Estonian has exclusive access to his own record and can control which doctors or family members have access to these data online.

Since 2005, citizens have used electronic voting for their national elections. The country became the first country in the world to adopt online voting. Using their ID card or mobile ID, Estonians can log in and vote from anywhere in the world. This would not have been possible without strong focus on solid cyber-security backed by blockchain to ensure the integrity of the system.

In the past 25 years, Estonia has changed lives by turning itself into a digital government.

In the past 25 years, South Africa has also been transformed, though it still has a long way to go.

South Africa can learn a lot from Estonia to turn itself around and achieve its NDP 2030 goals.

Adoption of technology will be key to achieve the NDP 2030 goals. This can begin with a single national digital platform for all government services.

* The Infonomist is initiating the Mmuso Wa Batho project, to bring citizens, business and government to use technology to achieve some of the NDP 2030 goals.

Wesley Diphoko is editor-in-chief of The Infonomist. He also serves as the chairperson of the IEEE Open Data Initiative. You can follow him on Twitter via: @WesleyDiphoko


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