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2000 school heads get smartphones

This week, more than two-thousand school principals in Gauteng each received a fully configured BlackBerry smartphone from Vodacom Business.

Speaking before more than 2 500 school principals, Institutional Development and Support Offers (IDSOs), and other Gauteng Departments of Education (GDE) staff, MEC Barbara Creecy said: “The GDE has this morning handed out BlackBerry smartphones to all principals present. The department has designed a special application that has been uploaded to each smartphone. The application which has been developed by Vodacom Business and its partner, AfriGIS, will allow affordable, manageable and reliable two-way communication between the head office, district offices and 2 200 public schools in the province on key matters that affect

schools. This application will enable principals and IDSOs to log incidents at schools such as violence against learners, non-payment of educators, as well as urgent infrastructure needs.””

In addition to the BlackBerry smartphones, the IDSOs who are important role players in the education value chain were also handed laptops which have wireless broadband access, giving truly mobile working capabilities.

The GDE also announced its Teacher Laptop Initiative (TLI), managed by the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC). This programme is run by the ELRCon behalf of the Combined Trade Unions (CTU) — South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and Combined Trade Unions — Independent Trade Unions (CTU-ITU). The Teacher Laptop Initiative was preceded by months of intense deliberations and careful planning. The initiative addresses South Africa’s need for a quality education system and forms part of the cohesive plan by the Department of Basic Education (DoBE) and other stakeholders in education to improve the overall

quality of education.

Speaking on behalf of Vodacom Business, Managing Executive: Public Sector, Chris Lazarus says he saw the smartphone initiative as the first step in addressing the digital divide that exists in South African education, as well as a great way of introducing convergence to the public sector on a wide scale.

“”The link between education and telecommunications is essential for our schools to move into the 21^st century. The massive changes in technology over the past ten years have enabled mobile communications to benefit even the most remote of schools,”” says Lazarus. “”The incident reporting system embedded on the BlackBerry smartphones enables and empowers principals and IDSOs to get fast resolution to urgent issues including medical emergencies, infrastructure problems or financial issues. Up to now, theIDSOs have been faced with last century work methods involving reams of paperwork and relying on fax machines to send information. This new system has the potential to deliver huge productivity improvements and therefore massive savings for the GDE.””

“”With a staff headcount of more than 80 000 employees spread across more than 2 000 schools in all corners or Gauteng, communication is key to providing quality education for our children,”” says Boy Ngobeni, Head of Education Department — Gauteng. “”We see the BlackBerry smartphones, and thereafter the laptops, as key to delivering on our promise.””

“”The technology distributed today is the latest available equipment and the programme will be closely monitored by a working committee from the Department who will look at training issues, maintenance, replacement requirements, and more. Each contract includes airtime, a data package for email and document transfer, and free instant messaging which will help to ensure fast, cost-effective communication between all stakeholders,”” says Lazarus.

“”We congratulate the Gauteng Department of Education on their vision to make real changes in the lives of our educators and learners,”” Lazarus concludes.

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