The Gauteng provincial government and its infrastructure investment arm Blue IQ are promising Gauteng residents and business ubiquitous broadband.

Gauteng finance and economic MEC Paul Mashatile yesterday pledged R93 million to the project for the current financial year. More is expected in future years and money may be forthcoming from the Gauteng Fund, which leverages private sector funding for strategic infrastructure.

Mashatile is spending much of his R627 308 000 budget on IT, other than “Blue Umbrella”, as the broadband scheme is called. Some of it will go to upgrading government infrastructure, but the remainder will expand the presence of computers in classrooms and seek to entrench Gauteng as a call centre and business process outsourcing destination.

“Blue IQ will this year focus on, among others, the development of a viable business plan and economic model for the implementation of the Blue Umbrella project, in order to increase broadband capacity and connectivity in the Gauteng city region,” Mashatile said in the provincial legislature yesterday.

“Blue Umbrella is an intervention by the provincial government designed to integrate municipal and provincial government into a consolidated broadband strategy. It seeks to expand access to information and communication technologies to all the citizens of Gauteng,” he added.

Mashatile noted Blue Umbrella will give impetus to the Gauteng government’s drive “of creating access to education, through distance learning, social inclusion, job creation, increased productivity and consolidation of the knowledge-based economy”.

Quality of service

The Gauteng Shared Services Centre (GSSC) also received attention. “The disaster recovery site for the GSSC is now in place and we have a business continuity plan also in place,” Mashatile said.

“Next year, we will conduct more tests to ensure the business continuity plan is entrenched as part of the organisational business process.

“We have made great strides in the area of service management. We will be implementing our IT service management and infrastructure monitoring project. Through this, we will monitor the quality of our services and radically reduce turnaround times.”

Under review

Mashatile also promised e-government and the provincial Internet portal would receive “greater attention”.

For this reason, the GautengOnline project for schools has been relocated in the GSSC. “We are in the process of reviewing all infrastructure and security,” he added.

The MEC said this year will see a significant increase in the service offering of the provincial government’s contact centre. ‘We are, among others, adding the police complaints line as one of the services. As part of the consolidation process, Ekurhuleni’s licence booking call centre will be incorporated into the GPG contact centre.”

Mashatile also announced the contact centre’s satellite site in Sedibeng is now operational. “This has seen an addition of at least 150 young people as contact centre agents.” A West Rand satellite site is also in the pipeline.

“We are confident that we will conclude work on this by the end of the current financial year,” Mashatile said. “We are moving with full steam with the roll-out of the call centre hub in the Braamfontein CBD.”

In the human resources field, Mashatile also hailed the province’s mobile application system, which allows applicants to use cellphones and SMS to apply for a job within GPG. “This innovative system is the brainchild of Omar Sallie, a young pioneer and innovator at the GSSC.”

Additional funding

The province’s economic development agency, GEDA, has also been drafted to “strengthen efforts to position Gauteng as the hub of the call centre industry and business process outsourcing”.

“We will continue with efforts aimed at sourcing additional funding for the training of call centre agents. This we believe is critical in attracting call centres into Gauteng.

“Furthermore, this intervention is in line with the commitment made by the premier in the state of the province address that GPG will facilitate the creation of 4 900 jobs from the call centre industry and business process outsourcing.”