Project Description

The digitalisation of state services offers opportunities for corporations to generate excessive profits from digital systems. Right now global corporations like Meta (Facebook/Whatsapp) and smaller local companies are all making a play for this new frontier in South Africa. As a new Open Secrets investigation shows, these digital systems have been used in ways that cause harm to people across the globe, with particularly adverse effects on those in need of social assistance.

In the ‘digital welfare state’ private companies seek to profiteer from the data gathered 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 massive profit taking and greater political control. In South Africa, SASSA has a poor record of protecting vulnerable grant recipients from the predatory conduct of private actors that seek to profit from access to their data. Who can forget how how it failed to hold Net1 and CPS to account for their abuse of the grants process. This failure is a stark warning that the digitalisation process led by SASSA with new partners requires far greater scrutiny.

Join Open Secrets and the Financial Mail for a Financial Mail Connect online discussion, drawing attention to the new frontier of digital profiteering and Open Secrets’ new report, Digital Profiteers: Who Next Profits from Social Grants?

Rob Rose


Financial Mail

Abby May


Open Secrets

Michael Marchant

Head of Investigations

Open Secrets

Hoodah Abrahams-Fayker

National Advocacy Manager

Black Sash

Alison Tilley

Attorney and Part Time Member

Information Regulator South Africa