Revamping government’s internet network, increasing the department’s internet capacity and roping in specialist network engineers from banks are some of the interventions that the Department of Home Affairs is implementing to deal with long queues caused by system downtime.
Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, said this when he led the debate on the department’s budget vote on Tuesday.
Motsoaledi said while there were various reasons that have led to long, winding queues at Home Affairs offices, “the main one that sticks out like a sore thumb among the rest is the issue of system downtime”.
“It is painful and generates a lot of anger to visit a Home Affairs office very early in the morning, and just stand there and wait for hours on end because all systems are down. It is very frustrating to say the least.
“Many members of the public simply believe [the department’s] computers don’t work, and they keep asking us why we don’t just fix our computers or even buy new ones? We can’t blame them. They don’t know that the problem of systems that are continuously down go beyond just fixing a computer.”
Motsoaledi said some of the interventions to deal with this include:
– The State Information Technology Agency (SITA) is spending R400 million to revamp its entire network. The revamp will be concluded in the third quarter of this financial year.
– SITA has concluded the implementation of its Implement Software Define Network (SDN), which is expected to help increase the department’s bandwidth due to the number of applications used at civic offices. This will increase the department’s connectivity.
– SITA has now doubled its internet capacity and introduced three failovers located in three cities, namely, Tshwane, Cape Town and eThekwini. This will ensure that if any of the network is down, there will be two to support services.
– SITA has finalised its procurement plan to address cyber-security for the department’s IT infrastructure. SITA has committed to spend almost R1 billion on IT infrastructure to support the Department of Home Affairs and other departments.
– After engaging with banks, the department has roped in eight IT engineers from a leading bank to assist to stabilise its network, as well as the installation of some key IT infrastructure.
“We believe that the partnerships with the banks will rapidly reduce the skills deficit and assist the department to improve and maintain system uptime.
“Members of the Portfolio Committee will remember that we mentioned on numerous occasions that banks are prepared to offer some of the Home Affairs services at some of their branches.
“However, this did not work as fast as we envisaged because the banks are worried of reputational damage that our system downtime would cause them.
“Remember that for them to offer Home Affairs services, they need to verify the details of the client by using our system. If there is downtime, the banks also get stuck.
“We believe that as soon as their own engineers have helped us to increase system uptime, the banks will cheerfully open their doors for Home Affairs services,” said Motsoaledi.