A new drive to help South African learners cross the digital divide has been launched by an educational NGO, ORT South Africa, which is urging the public to donate devices that are no longer being used.
“Lack of infrastructure and connectivity, along with lack of resources, including devices like smart phones, tablets or laptops, is widening the gap between privileged and less privileged communities,” says Ariellah Rosenberg, ORT SA’s CEO.
“The Coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown highlighted the fact that South Africa is far from ready for online learning, especially for township and rural schools. It is estimated that just 10% of South African households have direct access to the internet. ”
Arthur Goldstuck, founder of World Wide Worx and a veteran analyst of connectivity in South Africa, points out that that the lockdown period highlighted the need for connectivity for all.
“The vast disparity in access to education during the crisis sent a clear message: Internet access cannot be only about convenience and privilege,” he says. “It has to be a human right.”
Goldstuck was named ORT SA’s Honorary IT Ambassador in 2019.
In response to this desperate need, ORT SA has launched a fundraising campaign called “ORT2Connect the Unconnected”. It has a dual purpose: to help remedy the absence of sufficient connectivity, as well as to improve access to education and skills development. The campaign is in line with ORT SA’s educational and skills programmes for teachers, pupils and unemployed youth.
“Almost 4000 teachers and learners have attended ORT SA Coding Clubs and we must, by all means, try to continue these clubs through remote, online learning,” says Rosenberg. “More than 1000 youth are in ORT skills development programmes and some learning digital skills such IT Bridging courses. Our mission is to help make people employable, at the same time as creating employment opportunities.”
According to ORT SA, there is a pressing need to help those in townships and rural areas to connect to the Internet, in field ranging from mathematics to coding to IT skills to work experience.
“This is critical to the future of our country,” says Rosenberg. “We are calling on the public to help us to fast track equality in education.”
ORT SA is also partnering with Computerlab which, together with HP and other partners, has launched a device programme for the underprivileged. It will use the expertise across these organisations to repair devices, as well as installing software and sorting out licensing.
ORT SA is an accredited, award-winning educational NGO, which has been specialising in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), IT, coding and skills and enterprise development, since 1994.