South Africa moves on plan to connect schools to Internet

Following the collapse of the e-learning program managed by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad), South Africa is moving on with a new project that will connect schools countrywide to the Internet.

South Africa joins Zambia and Nigeria among the African countries that have moved to connect their schools to the internet in order to promote e-learning, following the collapse of Nepad's project.

The program, dubbed South Africa Connect, will kick off next month with plans to connect more than 4,000 schools to the Internet by mid-year under phase one.

In 2009, Nepad unveiled a plan to equip both primary and secondary schools in Africa with computers and connect them to the Internet. The plan was approved by African ICT ministers heads of state on the continent. But the project has made no impact in the region despite Nepad's promise that it would cover around 600,000 schools by 2015.

This has forced many countries in Africa including South Africa, Zambia and Nigeria to develop projects of their own aimed at equipping schools with computers and connecting them to the Internet.

The South African government hopes that by 2020 it will achieve a 100 percent penetration rate for broadband in South African schools.

South African Telecommunication and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele said the inexpensive equipment that is being used to create Wi-Fi hotspots and their low operating costs make it possible for widespread adoption of Wi-Fi as a delivery method for the goals of South Africa Connect.

In a departure from what Zambia and Nigeria are doing, South Africa last week formed a Wi-Fi forum comprising operators, service providers and technology providers, among others, charged with implementing reliable and affordable Wi-Fi across South Africa.

"Access to internet connectivity has a critical role to play as the country seeks to grow the economy," Cwele said.

Michael Malakata

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