Panyaza Lesufi
CAPE TOWN – If you want to know the future of Digital South Africa, driven by data and technology, watch the next five years of the Gauteng government.

eGovernment department of the Gauteng government now has an executive leader in the form of MEC Panyaza Lesufi. He has been appointed as the MEC for Finance and eGovernment. Gauteng is the only province with such a progressive role. This appointment signals a major move towards using technology to deliver government services. For now it seems this concept is being tested firstly by merging it with the finance portfolio.

What is eGovernment and why does it matter as a government portfolio? E-government is the use of electronic communications devices, such as computers and the Internet, to provide public services to citizens and other persons in a country or region.

The Gauteng eGovernment department was established in 2015 with the aim of modernising public service and to make Gauteng a Smart Province.

If this portfolio succeeds it will mark the beginning of a Digital South Africa. Lesufi has a great track record in implementing government technology services. He has proven himself in the education sector, where he led the implementation of the school online registration system.

Through this system, the Gauteng government is changing how young people access and experience education. Lesufi has been a great advocate for technology innovators. He was one of the leaders who challenged the unfair treatment of Nkosana Makate (the inventor of Please Call Me service) by Vodacom.

The fact that the eGovernment department now has a dedicated provincial government leadership can only mean the extension of government services through technology. Small businesses, health, traffic, transport and housing will potentially get some of government technology power. Imagine a doctor calling you for a check-up based on your health information that has enabled the eGovernment health platform. Using technology in health will enable personalised health services in future.

The success of this portfolio in Gauteng will pave the way for the introduction of the eGovernment Ministry in the 7th administration nationally. It will also influence other provincial governments to adopt a similar portfolio.

The eGovernment portfolio will be a game changer for how the government delivers services. It will also enable the government to begin a process of harvesting data to build artificial intelligence capability and in the process build a data driven country.

Technology developed in Gauteng and experience acquired during the process of implementing technology for Gauteng government services can be replicated nationally for broader technology implementation for various government portfolios.

Success with this process will require a dedicated government lab for innovation and technology implementation. This lab would have to be a platform for attracting young computer sciences and information systems talent from local academic institutions to innovate, based on their understanding of government challenges.

Barack Obama, the former president of the US, applied this approach with great success. He attracted young people from various local tech companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to solve the eHealth challenge in the US. This remains a great case study for how governments can use technology to enable the delivery of government services.

Wesley Diphoko is the editor-in-chief of The Infonomist. You can follow him on Twitter via: @WesleyDiphoko