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'Bad news sells newspapers' or perhaps in modern day lingo 'bad news wins clicks and retweets'. A negative headline on a website, newspaper or radio report is far more likely to intrigue the reader or listener than one saying what a lovely job an executive, company, minister or government agency is doing. This isn't just my personal opinion – it's a well-established media principle. As a species, humans are more likely to want to make themselves feel better by comparing themselves to those who are in a less fortunate position. It's also why soapies have retained so many viewers for so long.

While doing research for this Special Focus on the State IT Agency (SITA), I read many stories online (and the user-comments too). While the coverage offers balanced reporting, it's hard to find much positive that's written about the state-owned company. It's relatively well-recorded that since inception in 1999, SITA has had 17 different CEOs. Such instability in the leadership team has undoubtedly rippled down to employees and is just one of the factors blamed for the agency's history of poor performance. The famous (or perhaps infamous) turnaround strategy never came to fruition. Cancelled tenders and allegations and incidences of corruption still blight the name of the organisation. This has been the bad news for some time.

For those of us prepared to look past the negative headlines, however, there are actually signs of recovery at SITA. Following the President's reorganisation of some of the state-owned entities and departments in May last year, SITA now sits with fellow ICT players, such as Telkom, Broadband Infraco and Sentech as part of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services. With broadband connectivity and cloud both key focus areas for government's plans to boost economic growth across the nation and improve service delivery, this would make sense. Other positives for SITA include the executive team, led by Freeman Nomvalo, who has been in the CEO position for around a year and half (at the time of writing). Nomvalo is very frank in his admissions about the problems affecting SITA when he took up the position. Unfortunately, the reality is that SITA can't be taken out of action, fixed overnight and brought back online shiny and new. Its role is too entrenched in service delivery, it needs gradual and incremental change over time. The good news is the management team has identified a number of the most critical challenges and has plans and, perhaps most importantly, 23 key milestones in place to gauge successful transformation by 2018-19. The stories in this publication look at the key areas and plans in place to make SITA work. Although this is not the theme that normally piques the interest of readers, perhaps the bad story turning good will do.

Happy reading!

Adrian Hinchcliffe

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