Gauteng Online is a failure doomed from the beginning

What where they thinking when the Gauteng department of Education promised to connect all the schools in Gauteng to the Internet within 5 years? This is a rhetorical questions about the stupidity of infrastructure projects of this nature. The government themselves are the most inefficient users of technology and with this project they were meant to install computers and Internet access for all the schools in the richest province in the country. It remind me of my time in the United Arab Emirates. These Arab people had money coming out of their ears but did not know how to use it and relied on foreign workers from South Africa, India, Pakistan, Europe, UK and America to do their thinking for them.

Anyway back to South Africa. If you think about the lack of mathematics and science teachers we have in the country, it’s certainly no surprise that Gauteng Online has been such a dismal failure. While doing research for this article most media mentions and even blog postings date back from 2005. So that means people either forgot about it in the last 2 years or have blatantly ignored this project.

The original amount set aside for this project was R500 million! Now tell wouldn’t that money could not have been better used at the schools. For example to put in telephone lines to the thousands of schools with no telephones, or better yet fix the sanitation and make sure they all have running water.

A few years ago I came across Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He basically says that our physiological needs must be met, before we move onto safety, love, self-esteem and eventually self-actualisation. Now for kids to have Internet access is a need that most likely falls between love and self-esteem because it allows them to communicate with others, as well as express themselves by publishing websites. All I would like to say is that we should put pressure on the national Government to get its priorities in order.

It’s probably safe to say that this project is costing the Gauteng Provincial Government more than R500 million with all the disappointments from the previous companies involved. It’s no surprise they have re-issued the tender once again.


Author: RJ Thomas

RJ Thomas is an International Relationship Builder. He was born in South Africa, and moved to China in 2013.

  • Thomas Lehner

    It is no surprise that GO is a total disaster. Everybody that was involved knew from the start that this project will fail. How can we attempt to install 25 networked computers into all the schools in Gauteng when some of the schools do not have proper toilets, buildings, phone lines etc etc etc. I can almost bet you that most of the computers installed were paid by the companies that volunteered to take part in GO in the hope that they might get some of the business. Needless to say that 500 million were spent long before the project was finished and GO is another flop where tha only people making money were once agin the officials running the project. I am so glad I am leaving this country!!

  • Thomas harsh words indeed. I am advocating minimal participation in government these days. What I mean is I encourage and promote grass roots projects wherever I go because we simply cannot wait for government to get their act together.

  • Eskia Thekiso

    I think the provision of a 25 station computer lab in every public school in an upper middle income country like South Africa should not be rocket science. I don’t agree that it is a love and self-esteem need in Marslow’s hierarchy. In education computers are like books. They are an absolute first line necessity.Why the project failed I don’t know. But it is not because the notion of computerising schools is over-ambitious. Botswana has computerised all government secondary schools each with a 20 computer lab with internet access. As usual they did this as a matter of course without much fan-fare. The problem may be that in South Africa a simple education project was hijacked by the IT industry and hyped up unnecesarily and may be even with over-blown and unreal budgets. I put it to you that it didn’t fail because it is far-fetched to computerise and provide internet connectivity to South Africa’s poorer public schools. That would be a ridiculous reason in a country that leads Africa and many other places on Earth with technology diffusion. Computerising the poor in South Africa is a major national priority. Of course to do this we need telephone connections as well as electricty in the schools. As for the shortage of Mathematics and Science teachers this is a prblem the world over even in developed countries. But you don’t need science and mathematics teachers to give basic computer literacy to students.In Botswana short courses were run for any teachers who wanted to teach basic computer literacy as a minor and this enabled every school to introduce Basic Computer Literacy in the curriculum and thus immediately start using the computer labs.But these issues cannot be used to excuse a failure to bring everybody into the information age. The country will pay a price in the long run if we think that we can let the information revolution pass us by.

  • Kuben David

    I was at the launch of this project several years ago, representing I-NET BRIDGE as a viual journalist. I thought that it was a nice idea, but too simple for the budget. Come on: R500 mil. Much more can be done with that figure.

    Anyway, I have a suitable solution to reprise this project that would cost so much cheaper. Apart from that, it’s not just about installing and networking computers….it’s about EDUCATING. I have been working on creative online solutions to utilize the GAUTENG ONLINE infrastructure…put it to good use…but more importantly…to ENHANCE EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS, especially in MATHS AND SCIENCE, using fun…BUT EFFECTIVE, digital methods of learner.

    At least then we know that the GAUTENG ONLINE is not being wasted.

    Any comments will be appreciated.

  • My solution these days is to do things without government funding or business funding. What you need to do is link the outcome of having a functional computer lab + broadband Internet access to the basic survival motive. Once you have safety and security in place the higher needs will take care of themselves.

    I ask you when people are dying because of a lack of airtime or landlines (read no jobs or income). Do they care around browsing Wikipedia for homework or do they need a way to send a free SMS via Blueworld or Vodacom4Me?

  • Yes it is very important to remember where as a country we come from ( InternationaI solation). During that time countries were progressing as far as ICT is concerned. Here we are we are supposed to compete with those countries which are millions of light years ahead of us. The government does not know where to start. it is true that their priorities are upside down.

    How can the government build computer centres and train teachers after, by the time teachers understant how to use gauteng online the very same hardware will be absolent. The government could have started by training all teachers and teacher trainees. Many years have gone and teachers do not know how to “click”

  • Tobby

    Honestly who believe giving computers to children isn’t the right way to go? Granted there will be some corruption and BEE tender infractions but in the end if the kids benefit in some way it’s worth it. Let’s just hope us adults don’t mess it up again

  • Lucky

    I cannot believe that GOL had issued a tender to a consortium that won the tender to deploy expensive and high maintenance computers to the schools. There is better and less maintenance technology available yet they chose to ignore this offering of which is been rolled out to KHANYA and other schools around SA SUCCESSFULLY at 70% LESS cost . I also heard that this consortium cant even meet the deadlines and have only installed a few labs! The real losers are the students who do not have access to great technology and continue to WAIT!!!!!! wake up GOL and get with the program.

  • Bettie Greyvenstein

    I have been a computer teacher for one of the GOL labs at a primary school in Gauteng until about a year ago. The main reason why I quit was the fact that all that GOL could do was make a bunch of empty promises. The internet didn’t work most of the time when Sentec was the service provider. After they discontinued their services we were promised better, faster internet with iburst and we have been waiting since July 2007. If something breaks down it is almost impossible to get help unless you make an utter nuisance of yourself. In the end it’s the children who suffer through all this red tape. Now they are putting people into the labs that have little or no experience in either computers or teaching and the whole lab idea is getting a bit ridiculous. Somewhere at the top someone is very impressed that he/she gave the children the chance to utilize technology when in fact they should realise their window-dressing impresses no-one that has to struggle with their incompetance daily. We are not allowed to use our own computer programs to help the children that have learning difficulties because according to the people in the top seat they will supply the schools with sufficient programs to address all their needs. I’m just wondering when? Why don’t they give schools that really want to use their labs for teaching to do just that? Now it’s turning into another useless and expensive white elephant. Do they really not know what is actually going on at ground level or do they simply just not care?

  • Educator

    I was on the Project – Sentec did not deliver – could not deliver.
    Sahara did not deliver – could not deliver!
    The MD’s of these companies should be hauled over hot coals!

  • Seipati Motloung

    Iwas on learnership contract with the GOL from 2008 till 2009,March the Stepend was R2000.00 and we where taken to a tranning @ Centurion SITA,where we received trainnig and so forth mind due majority of us are from Sebokeng in the (VAAL)we have to spend that money for transport that is what we were told not forgetting some of us are comming from underprivillage families.R2000.00 made a huge difference in our families.

    Last year October was deployed @ 1 of the primary school by GOL again and things are bit different, there are changes here and there.I think the GOL should be given chance.

    • Dear Seipati – Thank you very much for sharing your personal experiences with Gauteng Online. I’m keen to find out more about the specific goals they had to install computers in every classroom in Gauteng. So many promises were made and they were all unrealistic. The training element is probably the most neglected, meaning training for the teachers and staff at the schools. The big question is this: So we have computers in our school. Now what?

  • Sizo Tshabalala

    Hi Ramon,

    The project failed because of greed, I had the opportunity to be part of the project but chose not to as I could see its failure from back then. I know this is an old issue but please drop me an email, I have many suggestions on how this project could have been deployed better and at less of the cost