In South Africa, there are approximately 5,000 public servants employed in the field of Information Technology (IT) across 161 government departments. This constitutes a mere 0.4% of the total 1.2 million public servants in the country. There is critical shortage of IT skills in government.
Source of Information
These figures were disclosed by Zaid Aboobaker, the Chief Director of e-Government at the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), during the GovTech conference held at the Durban International Convention Center from 12 to 14 September.
Distribution of IT Workers
Interestingly, half of these IT workers are employed at just nine of the largest government departments. On the other hand, about 16 government departments have fewer than three people in their IT departments. Aboobaker raised concerns about how these departments could effectively manage and transform their IT infrastructure with such limited personnel.
Critical Shortage of IT Skills in Government
Aboobaker emphasized the importance of developing IT skills among the youth in the public sector. Echoing this sentiment, Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande highlighted digital skills as one of his top five priorities for training. He stressed that basic digital skills are essential for employability and everyday life in a globalized world.
Efforts to Develop IT Skills
Nzimande stated that his departments, along with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, should continue to create pathways for South Africans to develop IT skills. Additionally, Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges are introducing programmes to develop IT skills.
Procurement Challenges in Government Departments
Aboobaker also touched upon the challenges faced by government bodies in procuring information and communication technology equipment. He cited an example where it could take a government department up to six months to procure just 10 laptops.
Need for Improvement
Highlighting the need for improvement, Aboobaker suggested that procurement should be more efficient. For instance, procuring laptops should ideally take no more than a week. He also shared an incident where it took two years for a government organization to procure anti-virus software, indicating that the current procurement system may need to be reconsidered.