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[JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA] - The Gauteng Provincial government recently pledged R500 million towards bringing the digital revolution to the provinces schools.
GautengOnline.com promises to install some 25 computers in each provincial school over the next 3 years, provide each pupil with an e-mail address, and provide a model for sustainable PC use. "This project will lay the foundations for the creation of an information society in the province," enthuse Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa.
An ongoing concern of the provincial government since 1996, bringing the Net to Guatengs schools has proved challenging. In 1997 floundering provincial Net-schemes got a boost when Microsoft South Africa opened the Soweto Digital Village, designed to provide students with Net access and increase their computer development skills via online tutorials and the like.
"SA cannot afford to be marginalised in the information age - the Soweto Digital Village is the first shot in a new revolution, which will prepare young minds for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century," stated Bill Gates at the opening ceremony.
Encouraged by the gesture, Gauteng has since proactively searched for a sustainable method to bring all its pupils online. The GautengOnline initiative will hopefully deliver on its promise of connectivity for all pupils and set a precedent for SAs other provinces.
South Africa as a whole faces some tough challenges in its transition from a developing country to a developed one. Practically alone in Africa in moving toward empowerment in the new Economy, South Africa is joining a host of fast developing Asian, South American, and Eastern European countries in proactively implementing technological growth.
Education, muses Shilowa, is the first step toward achieving a niche in the digital future. "It is the vision of GautengOnline.com that education in the province will be revolutionised by creating a networked public schooling system, capable of harnessing the full power of information and communication technology (ICT) and thereby massively improving the flow of information and resources through the education system," states Shilowa.
By collaborating and integrating existing projects such as SchoolNet SA, Internet 100, and Net 2000,Guateng online hopes overcome the hurdles of the past by accessing a host of experience and knowledge on conditions for successful implementation.
"Its essential that there is access to an appropriate skills base of knowledge workers able to use IT effectively in the workplace, who can give effect to the vision of 'a smart province,' concludes Shilowa.