protect personal data.
In 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa introduced a raft of new social protection measures for Covid-19. Given the need for social distancing – and the fact that the new grant beneficiaries were not registered with the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa) – private partners such as GovChat were brought on board to digitise the process. This is not unusual. Around the world, private companies are being contracted to facilitate the digitalisation of state services. But as a new Open Secrets investigation shows, these digital systems can be used in ways that cause harm – particularly to people in need of social assistance. In the “digital welfare state”, private companies seek to profit from the personal data they gather through digital grant systems co-created with the state. These systems enable extensive surveillance on the part of corporations and the state, in turn enabling huge profit-taking and greater political control.