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BusinessDay: SA’s new cloud policy could be a game-changer

Plan fosters use of cloud computing to improve service delivery and boost growth.

By Johan Steyn, 26 June 2024

At end-May, communications minister Mondli Gungubele released the final iteration of the national cloud and data policy. The department of communications & digital technologies’ comprehensive framework encourages the use of cloud computing to improve the delivery of government services and boost socioeconomic growth through efficient data management and use.

The strategy adopts practical measures to move SA into a new era of digital innovation while also resolving current concerns. Key themes include accelerating the development of digital infrastructure, protecting data privacy and security, promoting open data and interoperability, and adopting a cloud-first strategy.

Hyperscalers, huge firms such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon, that provide scalable cloud computing services, have created data centres in SA to strengthen their market position in the field. As these data centres are essential for a thriving digital economy, the policy thus aggressively encourages investments in cloud services and data centres. This investment is critical for the advancement of digital infrastructure.

By 2030, the data and cloud policy requires the mobilisation of technological resources and funding to achieve full broadband access. It entrusts the State Information Technology Agency (Sita) with procuring data infrastructure and cloud services for the government, digitising all government data, developing open data and data for development frameworks, and enforcing universal service obligations to achieve its ambitious goals.

The private sector has swiftly digitised, leveraging cloud services and data analytics to uncover new opportunities and insights. Government agencies collect huge amounts of data on health, education, identification, and company registrations. Some data is stored on departmental servers, while others are kept in physical copies. The government is experiencing data gathering, storage, and processing challenges due to the delayed adoption of technology.

Skilled workforce

Lack of uniform data governance has a negative impact on data integration, collaboration and system interoperability. This compartmentalised approach impedes the use of data for innovation, the development of digital products and services to create employment and reduce poverty, evidence-based policymaking, and co-ordinated planning.

The policy’s emphasis on digital inclusion and skills development ensures that firms have access to a skilled workforce, which promotes growth and innovation. This comprehensive approach advocates for a digital economy that is inclusive, competitive and sustainable.

Through the implementation of strategic interventions, the policy intends to establish a data-driven ecosystem that is in line with the objectives of the government’s digital transformation. It is anticipated that this will result in increased innovation and competitiveness in the private sector, improved service delivery in the public sector, increased operational efficiency in the government, and improved data management. 

For the implementation to succeed, there will be a requirement for collaboration between a wide range of stakeholders. In addition to international partners, these stakeholders must include government agencies, the commercial sector and civil society organisations. For the policy to succeed it will be important to have many financial resources invested in it.

SA’s national cloud and data policy is a forward-thinking programme that lays the groundwork for the country’s digital future by laying the foundation for it. The public sector and the private industrial sector stand to benefit from implementing a comprehensive framework for the use of data and cloud technologies to push socioeconomic development and innovation.





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