South Africa’s 25-year-old social grants IT system crashes more than 10 times a month

The 25-year-old computer system at the heart of the social grant system crashes more than 10 times a month.

The crashes – which lasted up to six hours – began in May 2021 and between then and March this year there were 119, Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu said in a written parliamentary response.

The worst months were October and November, both of which had 17 crashes, Zulu told DA MP Bridget Masango.

She said the number of downtime hours caused by the crashes was measured from September and “system downtime has never exceeded three hours per incident or on any given day.”

Zulu added, “When it lasted more than three hours, it was related to other contributing factors such as load shedding, power outages, network or server malfunction. In each case, the downtime did not exceed four to six hours.

Some of the crashes were related to the deployment of a biometric system to verify transactions, she said.

When the Socpen (social pension) system was introduced in the mid-1990s, there were just over 3 million scholarship recipients, but that number has since risen to over 18 million.

Zulu said German firm Software AG and US IT giant IBM, which provide the message queuing middleware and mainframe used by Socpen, had been asked to help the National Agency. information technology (Sita) to resolve crashes.

“To further rule out some of the possible causes, on March 15, a system change was made to the mainframe. Since its implementation, no downtime has been recorded,” Zulu said.

“The implemented change is still monitored on an ongoing basis until we are certain that the issue has been resolved.”

Zulu said Sita had a five-year target to replace Socpen.

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Gordon K. Morehouse