The government would invest R454m over the next five years in a new network to improve service delivery by offering faster access to more than 3000 departments, and reduce costs nearly 8%, said Public Service and Administration Minister Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi last week. The previous system, introduced in 2002, had become largely redundant and was unable to keep up with the demands placed on it, she said.

The Next Generation Network, which would replace the single network infrastructure, had nearly twice the bandwidth and would make the national government's vision of a single public service a reality through interoperability and seamless service delivery.

Neotel, the country's second national telecommunications operator, beat Telkom for the job of providing national backbone transmission services to support the new network. The transaction is worth R378m over five years.

Business Connexion will supply, install and support the network equipment on the Next Generation Network for three years, which is worth R76m excluding maintenance. "In utilising Neotel, Sita (the State Information Technology Agency) is ensuring that cheaper telecommunications for government can become a reality," Fraser-Moleketi said.

"As a new player in the South African telecommunications space, Neotel is able to bring to the market the latest technology and greater flexibility. This means that Sita, on behalf of government, can access additional capacity as and when required, at a significantly reduced cost."

Fraser-Moleketi said the new system would be operational by October. The government and Sita had learnt a lot from the problems surrounding the installation of the eNatis traffic information system and had assisted Transport Minister Jeff Radebe's office in tackling the problem.

"A number of lessons were learnt with the installation of the eNatis system and let's just say that the limitations of the system have been identified," she said. "We are confident that Sita has the right partners on board to ensure that during this transitional phase we straddle both old and new worlds of telecommunications with confidence."

Fraser-Moleleti said the new system would help the government provide services in support of e-government strategy by: offering a stable communication platform for all departments dealing with the public; through e-education offered on the FET Colleges Virtual Private Network Project; through telemedicine via the e-Health projects with access to clinics and connectivity to multipurpose community centres, which would benefit those in rural and urban areas.

Business Day