South Africa's Minister of Communications, Mondli Gungubele, has just gazetted the final draft of the National Data and Cloud Policy, a comprehensive framework aimed at using the power of data and cloud computing to advance digital transformation and economic inclusion.

The policy highlights South Africa's commitment to using digital technology to address socioeconomic concerns and increase global competitiveness. The country recognises the value of data and cloud computing in promoting innovation, economic growth, and better public services. The policy's long-term vision centers on developing a strong digital economy that stimulates collaboration, supports digital skill development, and assures data security and privacy

Key Themes

  1. Data Security and Privacy; The policy emphasizes the need for robust data protection protocols, mirroring the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This ensures that private and sensitive information is safeguarded from cyber threats, aligning with the Protection of Personal Information Act, 2013 (POPIA).
  2. Digital Transformation and Public Service Delivery; The policy promotes the use of cloud-based solutions to enhance government services, such as e-government applications and digital identity systems. This enables citizens to access services securely and efficiently, improving overall public service delivery.
  3. Economic Growth and Job Creation; By encouraging businesses to leverage technology, the policy aims to increase job creation and economic growth. This is achieved through initiatives like the Cloud First Strategy, which prioritizes cloud services for new IT projects, and the promotion of digital skills development.
  4. Collaboration and Research Development; The policy encourages collaboration among government departments, private entities, and research institutions to foster the exchange of knowledge, data, and expertise. This is critical for driving innovation and technological advancement in South Africa.

Shift in Data Sovereignty approach

Initially released in 2021, the draft policy promoted the adoption of a single data center owned by the government for all government services. A more decentralized and cooperative approach with the business sector is, nevertheless, supported by a change in policy posture in the now-final version.

For the government to receive consistent, dependable, and secure data and cloud services, service level agreements (SLAs) must be created and overseen by the State Information Technology Agency (SITA). These SLAs will ensure that infrastructure rollout, particularly for the government, complies with compliance standards and performance standards.

The Minimum Information Security Standards (MISS) framework, which will be revised to conform to technology-driven computing, will also be used by SITA to oversee access to government data. With the national and provincial departments operating and maintaining their own apps, SITA will also spearhead the implementation of digital government services, applications, and solutions.

The strategy acknowledges that due to obstacles including inadequate funding, the need for specialised technological skills, and talent competition from the private sector, a single, government-owned data center may not be possible. The government hopes to save costs, guarantee scalability, and preserve reliable access to vital data by utilising private sector suppliers and SLAs.

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