RealTime IT News

Electronic Empowerment

[JOHANNESBERG, SOUTH AFRICA] - Ancillary to the Gauteng provincial government's recent promise of an e-mail address for each pupil comes news of possible tech training for pupils from grade 9 and up.

If the bold GautengOnline.com project defeats red tape and governmental apathy then students may receive tuition in Web design, A+, and even MCSE - sponsored by the likes of Microsoft and Novell. Such a move would be a big boon to disadvantaged pupils who could end up paying thousands for comparable certification through a private institution.

The requisites for such training depend on the realisation of some basic goals -- 25 PC's in every provincial school, five computer-literate teachers per school, and the freeing of R500m from the provincial budget over the next 5 years.

As for the involvement of Microsoft, their participation is almost guaranteed given the fact that they took the initiative in 1997 when Mr Gates himself opened the Soweto Digital School with promises of further investment in localised digital education.

Part of the GautengOnline also entails providing each student with an e-mail address, establishing a provincial ISP, and a dedicated Web-based e-mail system.

"All school learners will be encouraged to become citizens of the global village, enthused Ignatius Jacobs, Gauteng MEC for education. The only niggling drawback, he muses, is how to stop these potential global citizens from stealing the PC's!

GautengOnline forms part of Gauteng's 'smart province plan' whose ultimate aim is to attract technological investment to the region.

Schemes include the creation of a type of Silicon Valley near Pretoria. "Multinationals go where there's world-class infrastructure, advanced telecommunications systems, reasonably priced utilities, and diversified and skilled labour resources," stated finance MEC Jabu Moleketi.

What Moleketi forgets is that Multinationals often favour cheap, union-free labour in countries where these factors are present -- hence the pernicious phenomenon of sweat-shops in Asian countries where disenfranchised women assemble PC parts at lightning speeds for a pittance.

That said the idea of empowering pupils to face the new Economy is becoming an inevitability in an age where practically any job entails familiarity with a PC and tech skills are the true measure of empowerment.