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Home > Public Sector response to Covid-19

Public Sector response to Covid-19

26 Aug, 2020

Pandemic highlights need for an integrated public sector in SA

The Coronavirus pandemic has created unprecedented challenges and offers an opportunity for government to be integrated and digitised by finding innovative ways to tackle challenges, and deliver on its mandate to improve the lives of all South Africans.

The Covid-19 pandemic has stretched government resources, diverting funds to the frontline health response and reducing staff availability at a time when every department is being challenged to solve new and pressing challenges. Yet the pandemic also provides the opportunity to find innovative new ways to tackle these challenges and deliver on government’s mandate to improve the lives of all South Africans.

The crisis is an opportunity to move forward with creating an integrated, digitised public service that makes government services available to all and reduces costs and delivery turn around times. Now is the time for the public sector to step up its response, taking hold of this opportunity to make bold steps in policy, structure and operations.

Here are some of the key ways that the public sector can respond:

Co-ordinate collaboration with business and labour: The crisis cannot be addressed by government alone and calls for collaboration between business, government and labour. This is an opportunity to create rapid response teams that include a broader stakeholder group and establish consistent governance to collaborate well over an extended period of time.

Co-ordinate across departments: The president has already noted how the Covid-19 response has led to government departments working more closely together. Now is the time to develop a leadership structure that results in fast, centralized decision making based on data and that is applied consistently across all sectors.

Digitise service interactions: The lockdown has highlighted the need for digital services that can be accessed by citizens remotely. As more daily tasks such as banking and shopping move online, South Africans are coming to expect the same from government services. Digitisation allows for standardisation of service across departments and locations, which ensure equality of service levels for all users and costs to be managed more effectively.

Upskill civil servants for digital work: The new integrated, digital government requires new process and skills. Extensive re-training, as well as sourcing the required new skills, will be required to capacitate the public sector to deliver on this mandate.

Enable remote working: Staff absence has increased due to illness and self-isolation requirements at a time when applications for UIF payments, tax relief and permits to operate are escalating. The ability to work remotely will make it safer for civil servants while improving turnaround times for citizens. The overall cost of service will be reduced as travel, infrastructure and property costs are lowered.

Renew ageing technology infrastructure: Budget pressures and the need to rapidly collaborate while pooling and analysing data from multiple government sources have highlighted the need for a simplified, standardised technology infrastructure for government.

Tackle cyber-crime: As more processes move online and more work is done remotely, the risk of cyber-attacks is increasing. And the virus itself is creating opportunities for criminals. The average total cost of a data breach in South Africa rose by 12.6% last year to R43.3m, according to a report conducted by the Ponemon Institute for IBM Security. Bolstering our national ability to
fight off cyber-attacks is an urgent priority.

Data analytics capability: The rapid spread of the virus has revealed gaps in our ability to assemble reliable data sets and generate real-time analysis. Fast, data-based decision-making is required to inform the health, economic and administrative response by government, and to underpin our overall recovery and growth plan.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought out the best of South Africa and its citizens, as government rapidly coordinates a response which has drawn international praise. However, the crisis has also shone a light on many challenges faced by the public sector in the country, and revealed many opportunities for collaboration, flexibility and innovation. Above all it has highlighted the need to move forward in creating a truly integrated, digitised public sector. There is still time to make further changes to policy, structure and operations to meet these challenges and continue to improve the lives of all citizens in this challenging and uncertain time.

If you need partner on your digital transformation journey, BCX is the perfect strategic partner to migrate and integrate your legacy systems across connectivity, infrastructure, and applications, harnessing the full range of next-generation technology services. Get in touch to discuss the public service of the future.

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