SA firms eye tech education sales boost

2015-03-20 08:55 - Duncan Alfreds, Fin24
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Tablets have education application potential. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

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Cape Town - The prospect of paperless education has sent flutters of possibility through hardware suppliers who intend on capitalising on the move toward mobile technology for schools.

The Gauteng education department has announced a technology in education programme estimated to cost R17bn.

"Tomorrow morning in this school, we are officially burying the chalk board, we are officially burying the duster, we are officially burying the chalk," said Gauteng MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi at the launch event at Boitumelong Secondary School.

The prospect of that kind of spending in education has made waves in the IT sector eager to sell hardware to the government.

Esquire Technologies has launched an E-Box solution for the education sector, which will see it sell 30 000 of its Geeko tablets in the first 12 months, the company predicted.

Price

The company was bullish about its goal of moving into the digital education sector.

"The education market is a new target for Esquire - and, based on overall tablet sales, 30 000 is a very achievable target, especially considering the move to the paperless education system that is gathering steam in SA. Gauteng has launched a huge drive in this regard, for instance," managing director Asgar Mahomed told Fin24.

The company plans to sell its entry level Geeko tablets with internet connectivity provided by sister company SA Gateway, though Esquire was not keen to disclose price points.

Watch Kobus Van Wyk explain how technology education strategy should be applied in this NEws24 Live video:


"It is hard to give a fixed figure/price, as it depends on the bundling. But the E-Box offering is extremely competitive from a price performance point of view. This is one of the reasons that the market research conducted shows that schools are interested in the E-Box offering," Mahomed said.

The government is set to spend a large chunk of the budget on education.

"Over R640bn will be allocated to basic education during the next three years," Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said in his maiden budget speech last month.

While technology programmes are coming into vogue, the minister indicated that a significant portion of the projected budget will go toward books for learners in the medium term expenditure framework (MTEF).

Teacher training

"We will print and distribute 170 million workbooks at 23 562 public schools over this MTEF period. Each learner in Grades R to 9 will receive two books per subject each year in numeracy, mathematics, literacy, language and life skills," said Nene.

But providing hardware is only one side of a difficult programme to move education toward the digital domain. Any programme that focused on hardware and not the use case in the classroom is destined to fail.

"Training, training and then some more training of teachers, as well as education department officials.  The major reason for under-utilisation (or in many cases, non-use) of technology in schools is the lack of understanding on the part of teachers of the way in which technology is to be employed in the classroom," Kobus Van Wyk, head of e-Learning at Mustek told Fin24.

Van Wyk was responsible for the Khanya Project which was tasked with equipping schools in the Western Cape with computer technologies.

In the decade that the project ran, he spent a budget of R1bn and trained 27 000 teachers to use technology in the classroom.

Van Wyk said that best practice has shown that the cost of technology should only make up half of the capital outlay for a technology programme with the rest of the money being spent on training.

Watch Kobus Van Wyk discuss the need for teacher training in this News24 Live video:

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