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South Africa

Department of Public Service and Administration (ZA0021)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: South Africa’s Third National Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Department of Public Service and Administration

Support Institution(s): GCIS, Innovation Hub, DTI; Code4SA, Microsoft, ChilliSoft

Policy Areas

Open Data

IRM Review

IRM Report: South Africa End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, South Africa Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Status quo: Visibility and accessibility of data is limited: A number of data sets are available in South Africa but these are typically fragmented across various department sites (or geographic regions), with different standards and methods for accessing the data. This reduces adoption by mainstream analysts and users, as well as limiting potential for inter-regional/sectoral integration of data sets which is particularly valuable.
• Low use and impact of available data: Making data available does not necessarily result in data being used or analysed for the benefit of citizens or public officials that need it, in priority developmental regions or sectors.

Main objective: Develop a Pilot national open data portal

Brief description: Develop a Pilot open data portal, and consolidate various data sets from across the three spheres of government, enabling citizens and businesses to easily access government data. The pilot period of a year will allow for further refinement of strategies.

Relevance: The Open data portal provides an easily accessible mechanism for government published data, dealing directly with the value of access to information. With respect to innovation, the portal will allow for the development of user centric applications utilising data published directly on the portal.

Ambition: The portal aims to help citizens and civil servants solve big social and economic challenges in their local context by making relevant data more accessible and useful.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

6. Development of Pilot Open Data Portal

Commitment Text:

Visibility and accessibility of data is limited: A number of datasets are available in South Africa but these are typically fragmented across various department sites (or geographic regions), with different standards and methods for accessing the data. This reduces adoption by mainstream analysts and users, as well as limiting potential for inter-regional/sectoral integration of datasets which is particularly valuable.

Low use and impact of available data: Making data available does not necessarily result in data being used or analyzed for the benefit of citizens or public officials that need it, in priority developmental regions or sectors.

Develop a pilot open data portal and consolidate various data sets from across the three spheres of government, enabling citizens and businesses to easily access government data. The pilot period of a year will allow for further refinement of strategies.

Milestones: Pilot open data portal established and operational; Execution of specific community events designed to interface and interact with the portal.

Responsible institution: Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA)

Supporting institutions: Government Communication and Information Services (GCIS), Innovation Hub, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Code4SA, Microsoft, Chillisoft

Start date: September 2015

End date: October 2016

Context and Objectives

The open data movement in South Africa is still in its infancy. There has not been clear policy and there is regulatory uncertainty regarding the right to access and use of data produced and held by publicly funded institutions.[Note213: Adi Eyal, 'Public data in South Africa: Time to claim what’s ours' Daily Maverick 12 April 2013. ] In 2015, OGP Envoy and Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, Minister Ayanda Dlodlo, took initial steps and established a task team to develop an open data presence for the South African government.[Note214: Zaid Aboobaker, Chief Director E-enablement, Office of the Government CIO, interview with IRM researcher, 11 September 2017. The initial task team included Code4SA, Open Data Durban and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. ] The team included a range of stakeholders such as government officials, business and civil society players.

This commitment to develop a pilot national open data portal aims to build on this task team’s work. However, this task team developed a pilot national open data portal that consolidated 409 datasets from national and provincial government in 2015.[Note215: Zaid Aboobaker, Chief Director E-enablement, Office of the Government CIO, interview with IRM researcher, 11 September 2017.] The portal is accessible at http://www.data.gov.za and includes links to data portals developed by civil society partners. The portal, however, was a ‘throwaway tool’, intended to serve as the basis for a permanent government open data portal.[Note216: Zaid Aboobaker, Chief Director E-enablement, Office of the Government CIO, interview with IRM researcher, 11 September 2017; Adi Eyal, Director, OpenUp, interview with IRM researcher, 22 September 2017.] Accordingly, no new government datasets have been added to the site since 2015.[Note217: See http://www.data.gov.za.] Lack of public funding, reticence on the part of some government departments to make datasets available,[Note218: Zaid Aboobaker, Chief Director E-enablement, Office of the Government CIO, interview with IRM researcher, 11 September 2017.] and the lack of demand for open data have constrained the development of the temporary pilot open data portal.[Note219: Adi Eyal, Director, OpenUp, interview with IRM researcher, 22 September 2017. ] Prior to the period of implementation of the third action plan, the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) together with civil society partners convened two ‘hackathons’ to interface and interact with the portal.

The commitment is clearly relevant to the value of access to information as it involves the development of a system to facilitate the disclosure of government-held data, and promotes technology and innovation by using open data technology to make more information public. The establishment of the pilot open data portal and the execution of specific community events promoting public interaction with the portal are clear and verifiable although difficult to measure. However, the potential impact of this commitment as compared to the baseline of May 2016 when the plan was launched is none, as the project had already been implemented.

Completion

The commitment was completed prior to the start of the public launch of the action plan in May 2016. Mr Zaid Aboobaker, Chief Director E-enablement in the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, noted however that OGP had enabled the government to work innovatively with civil society to overcome funding challenges. The OGP initiative enabled the DPSA to partner with civil society organisations to move the project forward faster. Specifically, the DPSA, together with civil society, has been able to secure R2 million in funding for a permanent data portal and additional hackathons.

Early Results

The pilot national open data portal and hackathons opened government’s eyes to new possibilities of collaboration around open data and has successfully served as the basis for the further development of a permanent open data portal.[Note220: Zaid Aboobaker, Chief Director E-enablement, Office of the Government CIO, interview with IRM researcher, 11 September 2017.] For the permanent data portal the DPSA, is developing specifications and guidelines on the sourcing, quality, and use of government data using 10 datasets.[Note221: Zaid Aboobaker, Chief Director E-enablement, Office of the Government CIO, interview with IRM researcher, 11 September 2017; Adi Eyal, Director, OpenUp, interview with IRM researcher, 22 September 2017.] A civil society partner, Code4SA, will develop this permanent portal within the remaining period of implementation of the action plan.

Locally, many metropolitan municipalities (Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, Johannesburg, and eThekwini) are in initial discussions for establishing open data portals and/or hosting hackathons. This is evidence of growing interest in using open government data to solve government problems and foster innovation and entrepreneurship.[Note222: See for example http://web1.capetown.gov.za/web1/opendataportal/default; Stephen Timm 'City portals incubate innovation' Business Day 7 December 2015). ]

Next Steps

Stakeholders expressed support for keeping a technology-based initiative of this nature in the national action plan.[Note223: Zaid Aboobaker, Chief Director E-enablement, Office of the Government CIO, interview with IRM researcher, 11 September 2017.] The IRM researcher recommends the development of a permanent national open data portal be included in the next national action plan, with the focus on scaling up learning around processes relating to the sourcing, quality and use of government data.

It merits underlining that while the establishment of the permanent open data portal is proceeding, the commitment refers to a pilot, which was already completed prior to the launch of the plan. The action plan should not include commitments on projects that are already completed by the time the action plan starts.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

6. Development of Pilot Open Data Portal

Commitment Text:

Visibility and accessibility of data is limited: A number of datasets are available in South Africa but these are typically fragmented across various department sites (or geographic regions), with different standards and methods for accessing the data. This reduces adoption by mainstream analysts and users, as well as limiting potential for inter-regional/sectoral integration of datasets which is particularly valuable.

Low use and impact of available data: Making data available does not necessarily result in data being used or analyzed for the benefit of citizens or public officials that need it, in priority developmental regions or sectors.

Develop a pilot open data portal and consolidate various data sets from across the three spheres of government, enabling citizens and businesses to easily access government data. The pilot period of a year will allow for further refinement of strategies.

Milestones: Pilot open data portal established and operational; Execution of specific community events designed to interface and interact with the portal.

Responsible Institution(s): Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA)

Supporting Institution(s): Government Communication and Information Services (GCIS), Innovation Hub, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Code4SA, Microsoft, Chillisoft

Start Date: September 2015  

End Date: October 2016

 

Commitment Aim
This commitment aimed to improve citizen access to government-held information, data and services by developing a pilot open data portal. The pilot open data portal was intended to gauge interest and understand the specific needs of South African citizens and developers, in addition to establishing an open data presence for South Africa on the eve of its assumption of the Lead Chair of the OGP Steering Committee in October 2015.[71]
 
Status

Midterm: Complete

The commitment was completed prior to the start of the action plan. In 2015, OGP Envoy and Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, Ms Ayanda Dlodlo, assembled a task team of representatives from government, business and civil society to develop a pilot national open data portal (http://www.data.gov.za) to host data on behalf of government departments and agencies, in addition to linking to existing datasets on external websites.[72] A total of 409 government datasets were added to the portal in 2015, ranging from annual fuel sales, to the estimated percentage of children living with HIV, to water analyses for the City of Cape Town, among others.[73] Together with civil society, the Department of Public Service and Administration nevertheless continued working on securing funding for the development of a permanent open data portal and associated hackathons.[74]

There has been no addition to the 409 government datasets on the national open data portal. However, there are additional datasets on the ‘Data Showcase’ page added by third parties, such as Code for South Africa, the Institute of Security Studies and the Independent Electoral Commission. These include datasets on the identity of ward councillors, load shedding, a municipality of compliance tracker, and a tool for determining the costs of generic medicines.[75] Despite several attempts, the IRM researcher was not able to reach the contact person for this commitment to inquire about further updates on the portal.[76]

Following the development of a pilot open data portal, the open data task team sourced funding for a second phase of pilot project from the Tirelo Bosha public sector improvement facility. Four main actions were completed between September 2017 and October 2018:

1. A data availability and needs assessment was conducted to identify and log new government data sources which occurred together with engagement of open data early adopters;[77]

2. Anew data user engagement was organised around three themed 'challenges' on air quality, healthcare and spatial transformation. Through the challenges, over 400 students and government officials participated in ten hackathons and training workshops in smaller (e.g. Emalahleni, Polokwane, Kimberley) and larger cities (e.g. Durban, Johannesburg) across South Africa;[78]

3. Following interaction with a number of national and subnational line departments about data sharing and supporting new user engagement, the task team conducted pilot training workshops with government departments on the management and use of data;[79] and

4. Based on early adopter engagement, the portal design has been reoriented to helping 'intermediate' level data users (e.g. NGO data managers, university postgrad students, government M&E practitioners/ researchers) to find, extract, link and use data from existing portals.[80]

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Did Not Change

This commitment did not lead to any change in government practice, as the open data portal was developed prior to the finalisation of the third action plan. Although significant work on a fully-fledged open data portal continues, by the end of term there had been no change in the government datasets available.

Carried Forward?

The IRM researcher recommends the development of a permanent national open data portal be included in the next action plan, with the focus on expanding engagement with champions within targeted line departments related to certain thematic areas and encouraging the adoption of useful, shared practices for data management and sharing to improve the quality of available data and to open additional data where possible. At the same time, the task team should increase training and awareness amongst civil society and subnational government, to build new data use cases. The portal should continue to be revised and updated to support this work.

[71] South Africa National Data Portal, ‘Open Government Partnership’, http://data.gov.za/about.html

[72] Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): South Africa Progress Report 2016 – 2018, 56, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/South-Africa_MidTerm-Report_2016-2018.pdf.

[73] These datasets can be viewed at http://data.gov.za/all-datasets.html.

[74] Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): South Africa Progress Report 2016 – 2018, 56, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/South-Africa_MidTerm-Report_2016-2018.pdf.

[75] These datasets can be viewed at http://data.gov.za/showcase.html

[76] The IRM researcher sent an email to Ms. Prudence Kolman, administrative assistant to Zaid Aboobaker in the Department of Public Service and Administration on 11 October 2018, requesting an interview with Mr Aboobaker for the end-of-term report. The email was unanswered. The IRM researcher sent an email to Mr Aboobaker directly on 11 October 2018, requesting an interview, but the email went unanswered. A telephone call to the office of Mr Aboobaker on 12 October 2018 was also not answered.

[78] A working toolkit was published to capture these events and lessons for other local data champions that may want to host events. See https://opendataza.gitbook.io/toolkit.

[79] Ibid.

[80] An alpha version of the revised pilot portal is being tested and is expected to move to data.gov.za domain during Jan/ Feb 2019: https://odza.herokuapp.com/opendataza/home.


South Africa's Commitments

  1. Citizen-based monitoring

    ZA0016, 2016, Capacity Building

  2. Open Budgeting

    ZA0017, 2016, Capacity Building

  3. Back to Basics Programme

    ZA0018, 2016, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  4. Environmental management information Portal

    ZA0019, 2016, E-Government

  5. Institutionalisation of Community Advice Offices as part of the wider Justice network

    ZA0020, 2016, Capacity Building

  6. Department of Public Service and Administration

    ZA0021, 2016, Open Data

  7. OGP Awareness Raising Campaign

    ZA0022, 2016, E-Government

  8. Implement the G20 high Level Principles on Beneficial Ownership Transparency 2. Implement a register of legal persons and arrangements

    ZA0023, 2016, Beneficial Ownership

  9. Develop and implement an Accountability/Consequences Management Framework for public servants

    ZA0009, 2013, Conflicts of Interest

  10. Service Delivery Improvement Forums (SDIFs)

    ZA0010, 2013, E-Government

  11. Mainstream Citizen Participation in the Public Sector

    ZA0011, 2013, Capacity Building

  12. Develop an integrated and publicly accessible portal of environmental management information

    ZA0012, 2013, Environment and Climate

  13. Development of an on-line crowdsourcing tool that will allow the public to submit data on protected areas and conservation areas.

    ZA0013, 2013, Environment and Climate

  14. Schools Connectivity

    ZA0014, 2013, Education

  15. Implement a Know Your Service Rights and Responsibilities Campaign

    ZA0015, 2013, Capacity Building

  16. Accountability/ Consequences Management Framework

    ZA0001, 2012, Conflicts of Interest

  17. Service Delivery Improvement Forums

    ZA0002, 2012, Public Participation

  18. Know Your Service Rights and Responsibilities

    ZA0003, 2012, Capacity Building

  19. National Anti-Corruption Forum and Anti-Corruption Hotline

    ZA0004, 2012, Capacity Building

  20. Guidelines for Corruption-Related Sanctions

    ZA0005, 2012, Capacity Building

  21. Develop a Citizen Participation Guideline

    ZA0006, 2012, Capacity Building

  22. Enhance Involvement of Civil Society in the Budget Process

    ZA0007, 2012, E-Government

  23. Environmental Management Portal Feasibility Study

    ZA0008, 2012, E-Government