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Digital migration of home affairs records will save time and skill youth

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell

With more than three hundred million paper records dating back to the 1800s, the SA department of home affairs (DHA) is ripe for digitisation. In his 2022 State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the DHA intends to appoint 10,000 young IT workers to accelerate the process of digitisation over the next few years.

As part of an extension of the presidential employment stimulus programme, a significant number of unemployed young people will be put to work, while enhancing their skills and contributing to the modernisation of citizen services. Addressing unemployment is critical in rebuilding the economy, and assistance from reputable outsourcing organisations will be essential to ensure the intended outcome of job creation is achievable and sustainable.

The DHA is just one of many government departments in desperate need of digitisation. The digitisation of home affairs records was previously the responsibility of Sars.

According to the minister of home affairs, budget constraints meant the DHA could only afford to pay for five million records to be processed annually, at which rate it would take Sars more than 60 years to digitise current records. This is simply not feasible, given that citizens have reached peak displeasure with endless bureaucratic inefficiencies, long queues, and reams of paperwork.

So, can it be done? With 10,000 young people working on nothing else, it is anticipated that the project will be complete within three years.

More than R222 billion has been requested from National Treasury for this project, to cover equipment and salaries. The plan is to achieve digitisation within three years, and the minister has confirmed that this is not an internship programme, but rather a recruitment drive open to all unemployed young people with IT qualifications. Largely digital natives, the youth is particularly suited to this type of work with an intuitive understanding of technology and digitisation.

However, 10,000 vacancies is not a small number of jobs to fill and given the geographic spread of home affairs branches across SA, the most effective way to do it would be to tap into the databases and networks of outsourcing agencies. Such organisations can be instrumental in providing the workforce needed at short notice.

Outsourcing agencies can dispense with the time-consuming processes, as all individuals on their databases have already been pre-screened and background checked for suitability.

This programme is the ideal platform for young IT graduates to get a foot in the door and earn valuable experience in the workplace in addition to a decent stipend. Induction and training will need to take place before actual work can commence, but outsourcing agencies are well equipped to handle these.

Timing is important, considering the magnitude of the task and it will be necessary for all 10,000 young people to be appointed at the same time to undertake the initial preparatory work of sorting, sub-sorting, and preparing records for scanning.

The workforce will be distributed among provinces based on the number of records per province, and there will be ongoing training and development programmes. This includes training in business skills, coding, robotics, digital transformation, financial management, basic project management skills and credit bearing, along with imparting CV writing and interviewing skills, all of which will contribute to greater employability beyond the duration of the project. All of this can be easily managed by an outsourcing partner with a training capability and a national footprint.

For 10,000 young South Africans, this is so much more than just an entry-level data capturing job. This is an opportunity for each of them to gain experience and additional skillsets, all of which can lead to sustainable employment.

For government departments looking to digitise, this is an opportunity to do so in a manner that is cost-effective and time-efficient. Using an outsourced temporary employment services provider means the DHA can access a workforce on demand, without having to manage the compliance or employment burden of an additional 10,000 workers.

• Nieman is sales director at Workforce Staffing

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