Panyaza Lesufi: E-government opens inner workings of government to average citizens

Panyaza Lesufi

Imagine what it would take to operate a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week service delivery provincial desk where no resident's concern would ever be overlooked or ignored.

Imagine a situation where problems are immediately routed to the appropriate government officials, and they automatically move up the chain of command if they're not addressed within a few hours. That would be service delivery at its best.

The promise of e-government as more democratic, citizen- and community-centred service delivery is here through the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE)’s online learner registration programme.

All applications for the 2019 academic year will be processed through the GDE’s twin policies of "e-governance" and "e-education".

So, what is e-government and what are its advantages? E-government is the mechanism through which governmental information and service delivery, traditionally provided through manual processes and personal contact, are reengineered to be delivered in a self-service model, through a network infrastructure such as the internet.

Indeed, through e-government, we use new technologies to provide people with more convenient access to government information and services, to improve the quality of the services and to provide greater opportunities to participate in our democratic institutions and processes.

The internet allows many Gautengers faster access to government. Digital government represents the use of modern information technology to exchange information and process the registration of learners.

Many residents of Gauteng now have internet access at home, work, or school. Many more have visited a government website, and a similar number say such sites make it easier to stay informed about government services.

With the rapid development of the internet and digital technologies, e-government is playing a constantly increasing role as a major component in our social, economic and political life. 

There are many advantages of e-government. It significantly increases the response time and decreases the cycle time, thereby improving access to governmental services and customer satisfaction. 

Through our online learner registration, e-government provides constant availability and increased coverage by enabling access to governmental services from home, work, schools and others. 

With the rapid growth of mobile networks, it will not take long to access governmental services via handheld devices and internet-enabled cellular phones.

E-government provides several cost-effective solutions. Automating services and moving away from human intervention frees up manpower from low-value activities and enables better utilisation of human resources. 

In addition, e-government offers an increase in productivity as well as an internal cost efficiency by sharing infrastructure costs with service delivery costs. For example, the cost of creating, processing, distributing, storing, and retrieving paper-based documentation can be offset by the much lower costs of producing and dispensing digital content.

E-government allows for anonymous, private and secure solutions based on appropriate authentication, security and privacy policies.

That is why, by using a secure online learner enrolment system, families will be able to register a child's information for the 2019 school season, thus minimising wait times and paperwork at registration, as well as ensure accuracy of information for all learners.

This year the Admissions Application Online System website (www.gdeadmissions.gov.za) for the 2019 academic year opens on April 16 and closes on May 28, 2018 to:

• Eradicate long queues at schools during the application period;
• Create a centralised database for planning purposes;
• Enable parents to access services at ease through a system that can process more than 30 000 applications per minute;
• Ensure that learners are placed within the legislative prescripts.

I urge all parents and guardians to use the online registration process and observe the deadlines. 

Apart from applying from the comfort of their homes and offices, parents and guardians can do so at schools, district offices, teacher centres and other identified sites. 

Those without internet can visit their local community libraries, where they will be assisted with the registration process. People should also use free Wi-Fi spots in their areas to login to the site and register for their children.

Upon successful submission of the application form online, the parents and guardians will be provided with a waiting list number. The placement process will begin July 18 and end on October 31, 2018.

Priority will be given to those who apply on time. Parents are urged to confirm offers of placement urgently, failing which they will lose those offers.

Last year the GDE came under heavy criticism and attack after the online registration system crashed after going live. However, the technical glitches have been resolved. This year we anticipate that the system will be able to handle the anticipated traffic. Capacity for logins has been increased.

Working with the Department of Home Affairs to validate identity numbers in real time, the new online system is better able to serve families by easing the registration process.  

Through the learner online registration, e-government has opened up the inner workings of the Gauteng Province to average citizens. It's much more than just a more efficient way to disseminate information and services. It is a valuable two-way conversation between government and those we serve.

- Panyaza Lesufi is Gauteng MEC for Education.