Limpopo government and SUSE join forces for pupils to partake in the digital age

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Blog: Derek Rule, SUSE South Africa

This Friday brought together all enthusiasts at the free and open source software event, FOSS in Polokwane, the capital of Limpopo province in South Africa. Since 2007 the South African Government encourages the use of free and open source software for its authorities. But here in Limpopo, regional authorities in charge of education and economic development went much further, clearly seeing the advantages of open source software for schools and for the development of small and medium businesses.

For many rural regions in South Africa connectivity and broadband are a massive challenge. But it is also essential for schools to have an ICT environment, so pupils can partake in the digital change to have a wide scope in education and employment. In Limpopo, out of 3.915 schools only 200 have a stable internet connection. The remaining 3.715 schools do not have access to the internet.

Therefore SUSE South Africa and Limpopo Connexion have joined forces to launch the Offline Content Project for schools without internet connectivity. With the goal that schools are getting access to educational information even when they have no connectivity.

The project while running since April 2016 was now officially highlighted at FOSS Day with members of government in attendance in addition to the partners and the Limpopo Government IT Officers Council.

FOSS Day in Polokwane: presentation of the school project

SUSE had provided the operating system for the laptops and tablets used at the schools, across the province and we have been assisting with free technical support for the year.

This great partnership between the public and private sector reflects the commitment to getting learners access to quality tools and information for the digital age. One of the many benefits of using open source and SUSE as the foundation in this project is that it is cost-effective as no licensing is required. Furthermore, there is no vendor lock-in so the 25 schools in the project have carte blanche when it comes to the open source platform.

The Offline Content Project seeks to develop ICT skills in the province and wants to empower community members to be active participants in the knowledge economy. This is a perfect example of how open source is creating opportunities for education as well as how the government can work with the private sector to create practical value for the citizens of the country. By creating an information-rich society built through knowledge received from an open source environment, the role of education truly becomes transformational. This finally gives impetus to making learners employable for organisations looking for digital-savvy people that are comfortable with using information in practical ways.

Acting CEO, Mr. Baldwin Ramasobane at Limpopo Connexion says: “With partners like SUSE, the Limpopo province can lead the charge in showing how free and open source software can be used to help deliver on the national development goals and strategies. We want to transform Limpopo into a world-class knowledge society and this is the platform that will enable us to do so.”

This partnership showcases the potential that exists for open source in Africa – across both public and private sectors. By giving learners access to a wealth of information in an offline environment, we are providing alternatives to the connectivity challenges that exist in many of the rural communities across South Africa and the rest of the continent.

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