Dr Pravin Gordhan, commissioner of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) opened the WWW2007 conference with a keynote on SARS and the Web. More generally how government is using technology to alleviate poverty, create jobs. He asked many questions like:
- What the impact of technology is on poverty?
- Does it empower ordinary people?
We have huge asymmetry in the population who have very good access and the lower income groups who have poor access to technology. Even just access for to Government information is out of reach of large chunks of the population. The digital divide is not spoken about much any more but it is still there.
Another important question he asked continuously is how SARS can use technology to lower the cost of compliance and increase the incentive. Back in 1998 SARS collected about R188 billion and this year is on track to collect about R558 Billion. This will be a surplus for the first time ever in the history of post-Apartheid South Africa.
So the goal of SARS when rolling out technologies like their e-Filing solution is first to continuously improve the service proposition. Second is to educate South Africans about their obligations. The 3rd is to have a very decernable enforcement policy. This was a wonderful insight into the workings of one of the most efficient government agencies.
You may also be interested in this detailed interview of Commissioner Pravin Gordhan with Business Report from 2004 after the elections.