With coalition talks under way, public attention is turning to how the South Africa’s new government will govern. At the Policy Innovation Lab, we are particularly interested in how political parties intend to use digital tools to improve government. This is why we conducted an analysis of how topics related to digital transformation were addressed in the political party manifestos of the ACDP, ActionSA, Al Jama-ah, ANC, ATM, BOSA, DA, EFF, FF Plus, GOOD, IFP, MK, Rise Mzansi, and UDM.

We examined the occurrence of keywords such as digital transformation, digitisation, digitalisation, digital, data, data-driven, data science, computing, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, machine learning, Internet of Things, robotics, and blockchain in these manifestos.

These are the six main takeaways of our analysis.

  1. Enhancing government efficiency with digital tools

Digital tools are expected to enhance the effectiveness of the state. Various parties have plans to utilise digital tools to improve government functionality. Some proposals are predictable, such as digitising government records and services (EFF, Rise Mzansi, BOSA, ATM) or digitising government procurement processes (BOSA). Others are more innovative, including real-time audits of critical projects (ANC), creating a digital rating system for government officials (EFF and BOSA), and developing digital platforms for public participation (Rise Mzansi).

  1. Improving education through digital means

Digital transformation in education is a significant focus. Political parties foresee digital transformation playing a crucial role in improving South Africa’s educational outcomes. Priorities include making more digital resources available (DA), increasing the use of digital equipment (EFF), and employing digitally-enabled teaching technologies such as digital maths games (ActionSA).

  1. Promoting the digital economy

In some instances, digital transformation is viewed as a catalyst for economic growth. Although socio-economic concerns often overshadow digital transformation, some parties see it as crucial for economic development. The ANC aims to invest in digital economy R&D, including blockchain, AI, and IoT. The FF+ advocates for policies conducive to the fourth industrial revolution, while the EFF focuses on supporting, protecting, and creating jobs within the digital economy.

  1. Improving law enforcement with digital tools

Several parties highlighted how digital transformation could enhance law enforcement, particularly policing. The ANC proposes a data-driven approach to identify crime hotspots and allocate resources accordingly. The DA wants to use AI and related technologies for crime intelligence to combat cybercrime. Both the EFF and the UDM aim to create databases to improve strategic planning within the police force.

  1. Balancing socio-economic and digital priorities

Unfortunately, digital transformation often takes a back seat to socio-economic issues. Most parties only briefly mention digital transformation, if at all. There seems to be a misconception that there is a trade-off between digital transformation and socio-economic transformation. This is, of course, misguided, as digital transformation fundamentally involves using digital technologies to improve society.

  1. Addressing ethical issues in digital transformation

Surprisingly, ethical issues related to digital transformation receive little to no attention in the manifestos we analysed. Apart from the ACDP’s caution against using digital tools to aid authoritarian governance, there was no substantial reflection on problematic areas of digital transformation. Topics such as the protection of personal information, addressing biases, or ensuring equitable access to digital tools and technologies are notably absent.

Published On: June 3, 2024Categories: News
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