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UJ’s Prof Kelvin Bwalya explores an innovative approach for e-Government

Many governments around the world have resorted to digitising and automating their business processes with a view of increasing levels of efficiency and inclusiveness in the public sector. The emergence of Industry 4.0 technology concepts and innovations such as artificial intelligence and blockchain have culminated into increased automation and intelligence of the public services resulting into AI-augmented government models.

Prof Kelvin Bwalya, a Vice Dean of Research and Internationalisation in the College of Business and Economics at the University of Johannesburg (UJ), argued that to have any realistic chance of harnessing the benefits of Industry 4.0 in the public sector business processes, governments must have the will to invest towards e-Government development.

As technologies evolve so does the practice of e-Government. The current rapid advancements of technologies, coupled with the Covid-19 virus, have resulted into accelerated technology innovations and adoption globally. Prof Bwalya believes that AI-Augmented government shows a lot of promise to addressing many of the challenges experienced in public service delivery systems when he delivered his inaugural address on Monday, 15 March 2021.

Prof Bwalya’s address explored the development trajectory of e-Government research and practice emanating from a decade-long research in this field. In particular, he highlighted the integration of contemporary technological orientations such as block chain and ambient spatial intelligence in the development of e-Government solutions. The theme was entitled ‘Automating Public Business Processes – Towards AI-Augmented Government.’ Inaugural Address.pdf

“I have developed keen interest in the design of smart cities and intelligent vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication using established and upcoming information communication protocols from the point-view of information architecture. A modern and progressive approach to data and information management is key to realising the promise of AI in the governments’ business processes. We need to understand the type of data we have, where it is located, how to access it, and what networks are critical for it to flow. Therefore, the design of requisite information architecture is important to realise the full promise of AI in government business processes.”

“The fact that one of the Bretton Woods institutions, The World Bank, has consulted me on e-Government development in Africa is a direct indication we can harness potential to provide research leadership in e-Government. I aim to continue collaborating with government institutions responsible for e-Government implementation, the private sector, as well as international organisations and researchers, and continue to accept postgraduate students and post-doctoral researchers researching in one of the main themes of e-Government. This outreach will ensure that we develop future leaders in e-Government design and implementation and a cadre of researchers who will lead scientific enquiry in the future,” said Prof Bwalya.

Prof Bwalya suggested that requisite deployment of 4IR technologies can be achieved by implementing broader structural changes across the financial sector, transport and energy networks, and the different industry value chains within the broader government jurisdiction. “The harmonisation of these spheres is a key mandate of Industry 4.0. There are research gaps in each of the different spheres upon which AI-Augmented government is hinged.”

He added that although not considered as a matured science and considered to be in the nascent stage due to lack of global consensus on many aspects, e-Government is a relatively developed field of enquiry. “Generally, e-Government is the application of information technologies in the core business of government aimed at promoting easy access to public services such as license or passport renewals, engagement with public entities, and promotion of participation of ordinary citizens into the democratic processes (a concept called e-Inclusion).”

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