Sunday, 24 November 2013

My Govtech 2013 Review

My Govtech 2013 Review

This morning I found myself reminiscing about some of the biggest events that were on the ICT calendar in 2013.  One of the events that I attended was the annual government ICT pilgrimage, viz; Govtech 2013 which was held on 21 – 23 October 2013 in Cape Town.

I was trying to remember as to how this year’s Govtech fared compared to the previous years.

What went well?
Marketing:  I believe SITA’s marketing unit did well this year. The event was well marketed with newspapers and TV ads, social media and web presence.

Trevor Manuel speech:  The keynote address by Minister Trevor Manuel was one of the highlights, with him outlining what he saw as focus areas for government.  From his speech he indicated that we need to tackle the following challenges:-

e-government, education systems, bandwidth challenges, identity management and security, health care systems, billing challenges, use of GIS, matters of dignity and rights as well as most importantly, open source software.

Attendance:  Without knowing the numbers, at face value, it looked like we had more attendance this year than the previous year.  Impressing was also the attendance of sessions by candidates.  Perhaps the unfriendly Cape Town weather had something to do with it.

The cultural programme:  Govtech will no be Govtech without entertainment.  Whereas parties were in short supply this year, Dimension Data and Vodacom had the geeks occupied until the early hours of the morning.

What went wrong?
The programme:  there was last minute shifting of the dates of the conference. This created confusion as even private sector candidates attended the Techniclick workshop which precedes the official conference every year. Techniclick is only reserved for government employees.

No show by the premier and MPSA for the opening:  I still don’t know the reasons for failure to show up as per the programme to open the conference, but I believe this was very disappointing to the candidates.

Minimal role played by the GITOC on the main plenary programme:  Seeing that Govtech is a collaborative effort between GITOC, SITA and the DPSA, I feel the GITOC Chairperson should have been given a chance to address the conference at the main plenary, outlining our achievements since the last Govtech and also setting the scene for our plans going forward.

What can be improved?
Entertainment lineup: We must acknowledge that most candidates attend Govtech to have fun, distress and network.  Perhaps the lineup of artists that will be performing at Govtech should also be advertised as part of the marketing strategy.

An African ICT Programme:  The next conference should perhaps have speaks predominantly from the African continent.  There are plenty of great ICT case studies that we can learn from.

I am sure there are other brilliant suggestions from other attendants, and if SITA calls for them, then we will have a better Govtech next year.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

ARTivists by FOSS

 My employer, the Department of Arts and Culture (South Africa) recently launched a new and interesting publication called the Artivist which has a nice ring to it.  This got me thing as to what will we call someone who is a technological activist.

Reference was made to the Wikipedia definition of the term Artivist which according to M K Asante Jr writes:-
"The artivist (artist +activist) uses her artistic talents to fight and struggle against injustice and oppression—by any medium necessary. The artivist merges commitment to freedom and justice with the pen, the lens, the brush, the voice, the body, and the imagination. The artivist knows that to make an observation is to have an obligation."
This prompted me to also look at the definition of an Activist/Activism on Wikipedia:-

"Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change, or stasis as captured in the Wikipedia."

For me, glaring in both definitions is the fact that technological change and/or activism is not captured.

However, I love the words 'by any medium necessary' in the definition of the artivist as this could also include activism through the use of technology as seen by the use of  social networks during the Arab Spring.

This brings me to the activist role we have assumed through the implimentation of Free and Open Source Software.  The South African government approved a Policy on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)  in 2007.  The FOSS policy states:-
  1. The South African Government will implement FOSS unless proprietary software is
    demonstrated to be significantly superior.
  2. The South African Government will migrate current proprietary software to FOSS
    whenever comparable software exists.
  3. All new software developed for or by the South African Government will be based on
    open standards, adherent to FOSS principles, and licensed using a FOSS license
    where possible.
  4. The South African Government will ensure all Government content and content
    developed using Government resources is made Open Content, unless analysis on
    specific content shows that proprietary licensing or confidentiality is substantially
  5. The South African Government will encourage the use of Open Content and Open
    Standards within South Africa.

Our department is one of those that assumed an activist role through the use of technology.  We are vigilantly pushing for the adoption of the Free Open Source Software and moving away from prorietary solutions.  In this regard we are among others, currently busy with the following FOSS projects:

Alfresco ECM:  we are on the verge on going live with our enterprise content management system.

Drupal:  We have just launched our new website ( developed on Drupal.  Our Intranet has also been finalised on Drupal and will be launched soon.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS) is a system used to search for archival material held by the National Archives of South Africa.  We are currently busy customing the ICA Atom in order to migrate the data currently on the NAAIRS into a new system.   

Interesting to note is that following successful implementation of our ECM system, it will be rolled out throughout South African government departments who have similar requirements as ours. The State Information Technology Agency  (SITA) will be leading this initiative and will be calling the system IzizweDoc ECM System.  The Customised ICA Atom (NAAIRS) will also be rolled out throughout Provincial Archives in South Africa.

As can be deduced from the above, the two systems will be implemented beyond our department.

We  previously implimented the following open source software systems:-
Terminology Management System
KOLAB email server
Suse on desktops and OpenOffice
GLPI as our Helpdesk system
Could it be that the Department of Arts and Culture is also a Technological Activist and by so doing we bring to being an extension of the definition of the ARTivist to include the struggle to bring about technological change for service delivery in government?

The journey of discovery continues!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013


One of the perks of the job of a Chief Information Officer (CIO) involves attending various ICT events in the form of summits, seminars, workshops, conferences etc. which are IT get-together(s) by any other name.  Obviously this will only happen when the busy schedule of one is open to do so. Whilst informative and enlightening, such events also provide an opportunity for networking for the professionals in the field.  Of late they also serve as beauty contests for the latest IT gadgets in the offering.

Interesting discussions more often take place during the tea and lunch breaks where you find geeks competing about the powerful functions of their gadgets and the latest free and not-so-free apps they have downloaded from the app stores.

In this events, being known to be an open source proponent, I am often approached by various people who will tell me how open source software will never work in South Africa for various reasons. However, I always laugh when I am alone because the very same people will be taking pictures, tweeting, facebooking and posting videos on YouTube using the latest Android tablets and smart phones.

Interesting to note is that while most of them are diehard proprietary software lovers, they spend 24/7 hours of their lives with Open Source Software as they not only use it, but they take it to work, to lunch, dinners, to the gadget beauty contests and also to play lullaby songs when they have difficulties sleeping at night.  Such people I call the Unconscious Open Source Software fanatics because when they wake up one day, they will realise that they have been using Open Source Software and not only do they love it, but it has performed better that the proprietary software that they always promoted and defended!

This is my first post and will be keeping you clued to your screen with more!

I hope you enjoyed the read.