FNOs, ISPs work hand in hand to cross digital divide

Johannesburg, 19 Apr 2024
Education is making great strides in integrating technology into the classroom.
Education is making great strides in integrating technology into the classroom.

In early 2020, the first school on Evotel’s network went live in Krugersdorp. Evotel has always had the goal of giving back to communities as much as they can, staying true to their claims that they prioritise the most important part of their network – the customers.

A cursory Google search will quickly reveal the great strides education is making by integrating technology into the classrooms. Whether through smartboards, laptop usage or robotics programs being rolled out, classrooms are quickly seeing improvements in learner engagement thanks to the benefits technology brings. St Thomas Aquinas in Witbank – proudly connected by Evotel and their internet service provider (ISP), Cool Ideas – makes extensive use of smartboards throughout their school campus. With the use of fibre and stable internet connection, St Thomas Aquinas is making sure they don’t get left behind the curve.

Says Marlinda Lange, Principal of St Thomas Aquinas: “If you can show a learner schoolwork on a screen or a cellphone, you immediately have their attention. It is the way they have become used to consuming and processing information. The smartboards are allowing us that advantage, while the chalkboard of old is only there as a backup when technology fails, the power is off or being load-shed.”

With such a focus being placed on the growth of learners, trusted service providers are always necessary to ensure our schools stay connected. Evotel boasts a robust menu of ISPs to choose from, many of whom are closely involved in the school’s programmes. With names like Websquad, Cool Ideas and some local favourites from across the country like Goldfields in Welkom and Net4 in Middleburg, Evotel makes sure the leaders of tomorrow are taken care of.

Duwane Peters, Marketing Manager at Cool Ideas, tells us that Cool Ideas has a keen focus on providing services to schools, with 310 schools currently connected on their network. “While we don't have a specific number in mind, our aim is to reach as many schools as possible, especially those in underserved areas. We prioritise schools because we believe in the power of education and want to provide students and educators with reliable, high-speed internet access to enhance learning opportunities.”

With the digital divide still a major hurdle to South Africans across the country, this focus on previously disadvantaged communities is undeniably necessary. With government expectations of schools being nothing to turn a blind eye to, having reliable internet infrastructure in place will be unavoidable in the future. That is nothing to be scared of, though, as industry leaders are continuing to bring themselves closer to the communities they serve.

Concerning the year ahead, Peters continues: “In 2024, we plan to strengthen our partnerships with schools by offering support. We are also ramping up our visibility at the schools, being a part of as many functions and events as possible for us."

Evotel, too, is aligning their marketing efforts with the local schools and will be visiting multiple networks throughout the year to make sure our schools are up to speed with what fibre can do. “Going to see the schools directly and connecting with the students and staff is the best way to gauge what’s happening on our networks,” Nadia Smith, marketing manager at Evotel explains. “With all our monitoring services on the network, we can always respond quickly to problems, but we also want to make sure our clients know that we’re humans with internet needs ourselves and not just a company in a province on the other side of the country collecting their money.”

But fibre isn’t just for connecting to communities and schools – there’s fun to be had. With fibre, latency is more stable and faster than other services available on the market and schools have been quick off the mark to capitalise on this for their students by starting e-gaming initiatives at schools. With schools engaging with these kinds of activities, it’s only a matter of time before engagement between schools and the consequent positives are seen. Says Smith: “Fibre might be a utility, but it’s much more dynamic than people think. The applications are endless to make your work, your home life, your time off that much easier! It’s the most stable service available for a reason.”

“Some schools have implemented robotics programs, e-gaming teams, app-based interactions with students, accessible online research spaces and utilised smartboards for interactive learning experiences,” Peters tells us. “Schools have also enhanced security systems. These innovations showcase the transformative potential of high-speed internet in education.”

With the companies across the industry continuing to roll out their networks, crossing the digital divide gets easier and easier. With the leaders of tomorrow having access to these technologies as early as possible, we’re setting them and South Africa up for success in the years to come. Time moves fast these days and, with service providers like Cool Ideas supporting Evotel’s roll-outs, students have access to opportunities previously only available to a few.

With the year ahead still long, Peters shares his thoughts: “In conclusion, the initiative to provide free internet services to schools is crucial for fostering equitable access to education and empowering the next generation with the tools they need to succeed in a digital age. We are proud to play a role in this initiative and remain committed to supporting schools in their educational endeavours.”