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The power of technology: Unveil of TVWS in Limpopo

What if broadband was affordable to communities who have never been connected to the information highway?

Microsoft South Africa, in partnership with the University of Limpopo, Department of Science and Technology, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), local networking firm Multisource and with regulatory support from ICASA celebrated the official implementation phase of the highly anticipated TV White Spaces pilot project at the University of Limpopo.

The immediate beneficiaries of this project will be five schools and the University of Limpopo, plus hundreds of learners and students who will be exposed to 21st Century teaching techniques that will make them more employable in future. Currently, the World Economic Forum estimates that, of the 25% unemployment rate in South Africa, 70% comprises unemployed youth. Another potentially significant benefit of the Limpopo TV White Spaces programme is making cost effective broadband available to residents in the area, using cutting edge wireless technologies that leverage unassigned and unused broadcast frequencies.

This pilot project has the potential to positively impact the lives of millions of South Africans, as the affordability of broadband remains a formidable barrier to universal access within many parts of rural South Africa. By simply reducing the cost of broadband access, millions more South Africans could get online, creating new opportunities for education, healthcare, commerce and the delivery of government services across the country.
“Imagine a world in which broadband internet was as common a learning tool as the blackboard. Microsoft is attempting to achieve just that by enabling quality education for all and creating opportunities for the youth through technology, partnerships, and programmes such as the Limpopo TV White Spaces pilot project,” says Microsoft South Africa managing director Mteto Nyati.

“By extending access to affordable services such as broadband, devices and, ultimately, the national reach of the government’s public service delivery capabilities, initiatives like these help close the digital divide that exists within and between Africa and other regions such as the European Union,” adds Nyati. 

The pilot project is spear-headed by Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative and perfectly encapsulates the initiative’s main goals. These include the provision of technology to make public service delivery accessible to more Africans, to accelerate capacity building and skills development for Africans, and to help ignite African innovation for the continent.  One such example in place in the area is the current partnership with the Limpopo Economic Development Agency (LEDA) to ensure teachers are trained to use technology in the classroom and in the community.

Nyati adds, “We need to enable our citizens to live, work and play on the global stage. Almost 60% of employees in a recent 21st Century Skills study said they developed most of the skills they use in their current jobs outside of school. Imagine if we could swing that around by giving them access to affordable cloud services, devices and broadband, as well as with teacher training programmes such as Partners in Learning, to equip our young learners with the skills they need to become the workforce of tomorrow.”

Department of Science and Technology Minister Naledi Pandor, says, “The Limpopo TV White Spaces pilot project can be used as a testing ground for developing a nationally applicable model that will meet government’s goal of providing low-cost broadband access to the majority of South Africans by 2020.”

The five high schools in Mankweng – Mountainview, Doasho, Mamabudusha, Mphetsebe and Ngwanalaka – form an 8km radius hub around the university. Professor Mahlo Mokgalong, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Limpopo, says the project will provide the learners in the identified schools with the tools they need to reach their full potential. “Some of the schools in the area have a shortage of materials. So, it will definitely benefit the learners in those schools and expose them to computer usage to become true 21st Century students and, eventually, employees.”

The schools have already received a bank of 32 Windows 8 Tablet devices with Office 365, a mobile projector, 1 laptop, Wi-Fi internet and education-related contents.

 “The possibilities are tremendous. If we can address the most pressing issues our youth and rural areas face today, including access to affordable and quality technology, the digital divide will soon be a thing of the past and affordable broadband will become a basic utility for all citizens. By working together with our private and public sector partners on projects like TV White Spaces, we can enable new consumer experiences, while encouraging governments to make the needed legal and regulatory changes that allow this technology to be deployed more broadly to all” says Nyati.

Microsoft is having tremendous success with similar TV White Spaces pilots in Kenya, Tanzania and, more recently, Ghana, and in other parts of the world like Singapore and the United Kingdom.
Date created: 2014-06-19 12:55:45



 
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