Let me start by telling you about the relationship between South Africa and the metal called gold.
For a long time, South Africa was the leading gold producer in the world.
As the Metric Tons Per Year graph below shows, the country of Nelson Mandela was in its own league as a gold producer between 1960 and the mid-90’s, and this period possibly stretches much further back.
Brief history of gold in South Africa
Gold was discovered in South Africa in 1884.
This shinny metal led to the official establishment of a mining town called Johannesburg in October of 1886, which quickly turned into a sprawling city, and the country’s economic hub that still holds the title to this day. Except, gold does not feature in the financials of this mega city anymore.
The Gold Metric Tons Per Year graph above clearly shows that times have changed for South Africa.
The country must now be looking for new pastures.
As the eNsight series on this subject will show, Mzansi is best placed to take its rightful place in this new era of mega data.
Let’s get into it!
Table of Contents
Inspiration for this first eNsight in the series
One of my nephews is starting his grade 1 education in 2022.
As a result, I became aware that the closing date for online applications – the main channel for school applications for grades 1 and 8 in the Gauteng Province of South Africa – was the 8th of October 2021.
This was another reminder of the amount of data South Africa has at her disposal, and the opportunities this presents in this era of digital.
About the eNsight
In this eNsight, I plan to build on the case the eNitiate team has been making for some time now, that South Africa is awash with digital data, thanks partly to a functioning national statistics centre called StatsSA.
South Africa was already on the path to being a new gold mecca
Through StatsSA, one of the most trusted sources of national data anywhere in the world, South Africa’s statistics are quoted alongside those of the developed countries in many instances.
While many publications have been using Stats SA mainly for economic stats, this entity also collects Mzansi’s population and social data.
The growing noise about StatsSA’s underfunding by the government, and the impact on this organisation’s ability to keep its talent, is unsettling.
Demonstrating the value of StatsSA for South Africa
I invite you to visit a Wikipedia report on the breakdown of African populations, which was last edited on 27 October 2021, at the time of publishing this eNsight.
When going through the African country population list, you will notice that South Africa is the only country with the latest updated population stats – dated 1 December 2020, from an official source.
And yep, you guessed right. The official source is StatsSA.
To drive the point home, you will also notice in the Wikipedia report that there is an African country whose official population census stats were last updated in 2006, on which note StatsSA is displaying banners on its site about the coming round of Census SA in 2022, at the time of publishing this eNsight.
The amount of data this arm of the government houses, and has access to, is mind-boggling.
Here is one example of the many sets of data that th agency analyses:
Here is a quote by StatsSA, related to the table above:
Moving right along, so we don’t lose focus.
Identification of the 18 most valuable sources of rich data - South Africa's new gold
Here are the 18 key sources that collect data about South African citizens and other related events, presented in a form that allows you to read each one at a time.
Just click on your preferred data source for associated information to be displayed.
I strongly suggest that you click on the Home Affairs first though.
In this day and age, the whole data collection journey for every South African starts at birth.
The South African National Home Affairs Department is tasked with capturing details of all South Africans born within the country’s borders.
Upon registration, every South African new born child is issued with a unique identity number that they keep for life.
The unique ID number is the most trusted form of identification in the country, and is thus used for all legislated and regulated transactions; including
- register for school,
- registering for mobile sim card,
- applying for a job,
- applying for insurance,
- applying for a marriage certificate,
- buying anything on credit,
- taking out a bank loan,
- applying for a driver’s licence,
- registering for motor vehicle ro;d worthiness certificate,
- buying property,
- applying for a government social grant,
- registering a company, and
- entering competitions such as Miss South Africa – an increasingly popular event in South Africa.
Thankfully, it has been my experience that the Home Affairs is one of the adequately digitised government departments.
To demonstrate its cradle to the grave role, the Home Affairs also issues death certificates.
The two main population stats include:
- Official estimates
Responsible agency: StatsSA.
Every South African who receives a government social grant must first register, using their identity number.
There are currently 9 categories of social grants, including:
- Older persons government pension grants;
- Disability grants; and
- Grants for under-age children of unemployed parents
Responsible: SASSA, which reports to National Department of Social Development.
Education stats provide one of the largest databases in South Africa, fuelled by increasing focus on online registrations for grade 1 and 8 in Provinces such as Gauteng and Western Cape, and the fixation on Matric enrolments and results by the country’s Department of Basic Education.
This database also has a lot of intersecting sources, from the Departments of Basic and Higher Education, the private education sector, public universities and the regulated professional associations.
The stats include:
- Employment – new and existing
- Pension and provident memberships
- Skills development
- Unempleyment insurance
Department of Labour
According to the Department of Energy, there are 275 thousand electrified households in South Africa, and this is 86% of the country’s total households.
The stats also include:
- Location and profile of electrified households
- Electrified industrial properties, and types of industries
- Electrified public properties
- Usage per unit/location/profile
Sources: Eskom and Local Municipalities, reporting to the Department of Energy and the Provincial Departments of Coorporative Gorvance and Traditional Affirs, respectively.
The volume of health stats is substantial, and has increased drastically since 2020, due to COVID-19.
The stats come from both public and private institutions, and include:
- Deliveries of new-born babies
- Deaths, and underlying medical causes
- Number of patients per day and daily traffic, per medical facility
- Medical personnel records
Source: Department of Health
The stats include:
- New registrations across various business categories
- Annual business registration renewals
- Company taxes
- Public listings and annual reports
- Intellectual property registrations
- Trademark registrations
Sources: Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC), SARS and Johannesburg.
There are many government agencies that operate in this space, from national to provincial, and they include:
- National Youth Development Agency
- National Empowerment Fund
- Business Partners
- Gauteng Enterprise Propeller
The purpose of this eNsight is not to critique the effectiveness of the agencies above, but to point out that they also collect data for this section of South African business.
This industry arguably has the richest realtime data of all other sources in South Africa, and is largely responsible for the generation of digital data across the board due to incorporation of mobile Internet services.
Because this industry is so heavily regulated through ICASA, it gives the government direct access to the data that gets generated, including:
- Data sim registrations
- Mobile device sales
- Internet access
- Internet applications that are accessed, such as social networks
- Time spent on the Internet and associated applications
ICASA, which reports to the National Department of Communications.
This is the sub-sector of the telecoms industry, and is made up of mainly radio & television.
The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), community radio and television, the many independent radio stations, eTV and Multichoice – the only privately owned pay-tv service in the country at the moment, generate data through their services.
Multichoice generates the richest data of all the television and radio broadcasters in the country, becuase this business is already using digital technologies for its broadcasting services, while the SABC is still on analog.
The financial services industry generates the second richest realtime data after telecoms, in my assessment.
This is perhaps the most regulated industry in the country.
Data that is generated in this industry includes:
- Opening and maintenance of banking accounts, both personal and business
- Banking transactions –
- Volumes, frequencies and amounts involved
- Electronic vs online transactions
- Local vs continental vs global transactions
- Debt financing and servicing
- Types of debts, and financed properties and expenses
- Repayment rates
- Defaults, etc.
- Insurance –
- Personal vs business
- long-term and short-term
- Types of insurance
- Savings & investments
Sources: The Financial Sector Conduct Authority, The National Credit Regulator and the SA Reserve Bank.
This industry is regulated through the Deeds Office, which keeps a registry of properties across South Africa, and thus keeps a watch on transactions and other goings-on in this industry.
The generated data includes
- Registrations of business and residential properties
- Details and profiles of buyers and sellers
- Property transactions – locations, types, values, etc.
The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is reputated for being fairly effective and efficient at collecting the legislated taxes, assisted by their good use of carrot and stick methods to ensure compliance.
The taxes this agency of the government collects include:
- Company taxes
- Personal taxes
The one greatest example of the effective means of SARS collection relates to integrating government procurement, a huge chunk of the South African economy, with VAT payment compliance.
Every South African business that is registered for VAT has to pay the collected VAT amounts every 2 months.
If a business misses any one VAT payment cycle, such business’s tax status will automatically become non-compliant, and thus it will not be able to get new business mainly from government.
Many companies do business with government. Thus, maintaining a healthy tax compliance status ensures that companies can qualify for new government contracts.
Goods going out and coming into the country must be recorded by the Customs Office.
This data is important for government to keep tabs on money outflows and inflows, and thus determine foreign transaction balances, and related foreign currency movements.
Air travel is a regulated industry.
By law, details of all air travel are registered, including cargo and passengers.
This provides yet another source of data.
Three points to note.
According to Statista, South Africa has the highest number of airports in Africa by a wide margin (= 407), and is in the top 20 in the world.
Mzansi has some of most well-developed international and local airports, and top-class air traffic control measures.
South Africa has among the most liberal open skies policies on the continent, as signaled by the fact that the country had the second largest share of foreign tourists in 2019.
According to the ZA Central Registry, there are 1.3 million registered .co.za domains, as at 30 October 2021. This domain contributes 95% to the total of registered domains, with the remaining domains including .africa and .org.za.
As I finalise this eNsight, South Africa is gripped by the local elections mania, with voting about to happen in 1 day’s time.
In 1 easy step and under 5 minutes, I was able to check if I am registered on the Independent Elections Commission‘s Website using my ID number.
I am sorted to vote on 1 November!
And yes, by the end of the coming voting event, the IEC site will have plenty of data, which can be sliced and diced for deeper insights :)
There you have it!
Being the self-declared data junkies ourselves, we have used some of the 18 sources to publish a voluminous number of eNsights on our platform, confirming the availability of rich, reliable and constantly updated data that is readily available.
We have shared some of the published eNsights in this eNsight.
COVID-19 data: a special mention
A special commendation goes to the Department of Health for the great work done in tracking, analysing and sharing COVID-19 vaccination data.
There are 13 vaccination update “slides” that are shared on the dedicated COVID-19 Website, filled with rich usable data that gets updated every 24 hours.
See my selection of 4 of the vaccination slides, which I extracted from the dedicated Website at 7:30am on the morning of 31 October 2021.
This is a classic example of what can be done when data is captured digitally, and can be quickly collated data.
With the addition of population data from StatsSA that is broken down by age, Province and District, the vaccination data gets given even more value.
I shall answer the question “So F%$*#! What?” related to the COVID-19 vaccination data in the next eNsight in this series, as I demonstrate how COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the country’s data management ability, which puts Mzansi in a unique position to become one of the leading countries in the world that should be data-led.
A single citizen view
Can you imagine what we can learn about South Africa and its people if data insights from all the 18 sources that are the subject of this eNsight were integrated?
Would it not be great if policy makers, planners and implementors had the view of citizens from a single vantage point where they are able to drill down to the individual citizen, and extrapolate from there to develop relevant segments based on an 18-point data model, which can enhance sound planning, effective implementation and robust measurement?
Is “IMPOSSIBLE” your response to the 2 questions above?
I shall give a stab at how this can be done in one of the coming eNsights in this series.
Are the 18 identified sources the only ones that qualify for South Africa's new gold - mega data?
As an example, social media data can be laid over that from the 18 sources.
Just watch the analysis paralysis risk.