Success/Failure Case Study No.26
(Not) Providing Computers for all South African Civil Servants
Case Study Author
Alan Levin (email@example.com)
Golaganang (meaning 'come together') was a joint initiative between the South African government and the private sector to provide public service employees with an affordable computer bundle. This would include a multi-media PC, operating system and application software, a modem and Internet connectivity, a printer, free installation, a three-year extended warranty, interactive tutorial software plus three hours basic computer skills training for the employee and one family member.
The Golaganang project was announced in May 2002, and was intended to be accessible by all of the 1.1 million public servants in South Africa. The project aimed to distribute Internet-connected PCs to at least 50,000 employees within the first six months of operation. Highest earners would pay US$45 per month over a 36-month period. There would then be a sliding scale of subsidies down to the lowest earners - those on less than US$1,300 per month - who would pay just US$10 per month.
Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the Minister of Public Service and Administration (MPSA) with overall responsibility for the project, stated in May 2002 that the project was "an attempt to address inequalities in access to technology by 'providing the chance to those public servants that hitherto could not afford to buy their own home computers, to do so now. In the process we believe that digital literacy among public servants will improve significantly and that this in turn will result in better utilisation of ICT in the execution of their work, and consequently better service delivery to the public.'" (Otter 2002).
The South African government's Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) took a lead on the project from the public sector side, with involvement also from the State IT Agency (SITA). The private sector group was led by Hewlett-Packard. Other involved organisations included Telkom, CS Holdings, Standard Bank and Microsoft. Clearly, all South African public servants were also stakeholders, or potential stakeholders: it is estimated that at least 25% of all government employees were aware of the offer.
Impact: Costs and Benefits
Direct costs alone of the project would have been around US$80m in the first six months assuming the target of 50,000 was reached. There would have been the significant additional costs of administering the project, plus the donation to local schools of one PC per 20 purchased through Golaganang. There would have been the benefits of local employment, since the PCs were to be built in South Africa. There would also have been the benefits of PC usage and skills build-up. The impact of the project's failure is hard to gauge, but Golaganang was seen as a flagship programme in the South African government's attempts to champion use of ICTs in the public sector specifically, and society generally. The failure of the project will have had broad but shallow knock-on effects in damaging ICT roll-out and uptake, and also in damaging confidence about large ICT projects and about public-private partnerships.
Evaluation: Failure or Success?
A total failure. This was announced to public officials by email:
"On the 17 April 2002, cabinet approved the Golaganang Programme and related Walk-In Training Centres, (Cabinet memorandum 22 of 2002 dated April 2002 from DPSA.) Subsequently the MPSA announced the project in her budget speech in May 2002. The DPSA approach on the Golaganang partnership was on a basis of shared risks and benefits. However, the difficulty arose when HP later insisted that government offer guarantees to the value of R700m [ c.US$73m ] to allow the project to go ahead as they were unable to carry the commercial risk. This was against the spirit for which the DPSA and SITA presented the project to Cabinet. DPSA was also not in a position to offer guarantees in advance payments. Furthermore, DPSA investigated other options to allow the project to proceed. The alternative options were found to be financially not sustainable in the long term. DPSA regrets to inform members of Cabinet that to date no alternative option has been found. We will however, continue our efforts to seek for the best alternative and communicate our findings once such an alternative has been found. DPSA has decided to shelve the project till such time a best alternative has been found."
Enablers/Critical Success Factors
- Drive from HP . This private company has a sales strategy to address e-government and as such it has aggressively targeted roll-out of ICTs in the South African public sector. This goes all the way to the top as HP CEO, Carly Fiorina, is positioned on the South African President's ICT executive advisory council.
- Cabinet-level support . Addressing the digital divide is seen as the key ICT issue in South Africa. Cabinet members were all convinced of the benefits of the HP proposal when they decided to accept it.
- Civil servants' enthusiasm . When civil servants heard about the project, they were very keen on the idea, and on the opportunity to extend ICT access to their own homes.
Constraints/Critical Failure Factors
- Trust without due diligence . This public-private partnership was established on the basis of trust. Too much weight was placed on 'partnership' and this resulted in the very late misunderstanding of where the finance was coming from.
- Scale . The project lacked any notion of a pilot scheme, and the scope was far too large and ambitious for the timescale envisaged.
- Start small, then grow . For e-government projects, especially ones that may ultimately have a large scope, start small and, when positive results are seen, scale up quickly.
- Undertake processes of due diligence . This does not mean that small-scale pilots must be monitored and evaluated in great detail. It does mean that there must be appropriate risk management. This requires a good sense of both costs and benefits, and an ability to put some numbers on both.
Author Data Sources/Role : Web Site, Documents and Observation; No Direct Role.
Outcome : Total Failure. Reform : eSociety. Sector : General Services (Public Administration).
Region : Southern Africa. Start Date : 2002. Submission Date : November 2002