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InfoVerge helps Free State education transform with innovative approaches to Microsoft solutions


Johannesburg, 26 Jun 2024
Skhumbuzo Mjoji, the Chief Technology Officer at InfoVerge.
Skhumbuzo Mjoji, the Chief Technology Officer at InfoVerge.

The Free State Department of Education has partnered with InfoVerge to implement, optimise and support its Microsoft 365 environment, which is helping modernise systems for administrators and schools in the province.

Randall Pienaar, Acting Director IT and Information Services at the Free State Department of Education, explains that InfoVerge is helping the department overcome constraints specific to state education departments and optimise the value of its Microsoft 365 investments.

Pienaar says: “During our first contract period, InfoVerge was a subcontractor. They helped the department overcome the challenge of migrating workloads to the required hybrid configuration, overcame connectivity issues by harnessing OneDrive storage for backup, and optimised Teams for use as the primary collaboration and communication platform.”

The department recently embarked on a second three-year contract with InfoVerge as its Microsoft software implementation partner to support its journey towards digitally enabled education.

To overcome the time-consuming task of installing thousands of devices for students, InfoVerge implemented Microsoft Intune – a cloud-based endpoint management solution – for remote deployment and simplified management.

Pienaar says: “In the past, it would have been a tedious task for our teams to set up the laptops and format them individually. With the software we have now, we create accounts and profiles for learners online, and it is pushed to them once the user logs on to his/her account, making the environment far more efficient.

“There have been huge improvements at communications level: we bundled Teams use with mobile contracts and deployed mobile office routers to schools, fitted with SIM cards that are zero rated for Teams. Professional development sessions and meetings on Teams don’t cost schools anything. Even the district and provincial administrators’ phones are zero rated on Teams,” he says.

Forty-four schools are currently part of the department’s virtual learning proof of concept initiatives, with 1 900 district and provincial administrators, over 28 000 teachers and around 13 500 learners enabled by the Microsoft 365 environment. Security across the environment is assured with Microsoft security software bundled with the enterprise and campus packages the department uses.

With the fundamental infrastructure in place, the department’s modernisation journey is continuing. “There is software we have not yet used effectively – for example, Microsoft Projects. One objective of the new three-year contract with InfoVerge is to train at least two units – our infrastructure and IT projects divisions – on the effective use of Microsoft Projects,” Pienaar says.

“We also want to look at modernising our EMIS (Education Management Information System) portal using Power BI to make learner performance data, and parent and teacher data, more visual. Another planned project is to move our intranet and school SA-SAMS (South African School Administration Management system) database submission systems to SharePoint."

Skhumbuzo Mjoji, Chief Technology Officer at InfoVerge, says strict rules and guidelines apply to state departments such as education: “It was necessary to have a hybrid solution because some of the tools we wanted to implement were dependent on cloud – such as Teams. We needed to innovate to bring tools like Teams to add value to the department, within constraints such as network capacity and cloud guidelines.”

Itumeleng Chuene, Chief Revenue Officer at InfoVerge, says InfoVerge’s innovative approaches to addressing customer challenges extend to change management and skills development. “One thing we identified as a challenge was resources to manage the new Microsoft 365 environment. To address this, we bring in interns and train them on every stream we deliver, and then promote them and hand them over to the department. This gives our customer continuity and empowers and upskills our interns.”

The Free State Department of Education’s modernisation programme will feature in the first of a new series of six InfoVerge webinars entitled: "Navigating the Digital Frontier: Pioneering Efficiency and Compliance Across Industries", in which customer success stories and learnings will be highlighted. The Classroom to Cloud: Elevating Education with Microsoft Tech webinar, to be staged on 17 July this year, will explore the power of Microsoft technologies in reshaping the educational landscape. This webinar will outline the Free State Department of Education experience and delve into comprehensive strategies for planning, deployment, adoption, usage and management of Microsoft environments on a large scale. For more information and to register for this event, go to https://www.infoverge.co.za/elevating-education-with-microsoft-tech/.

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Founded in 2012, InfoVerge Solutions is dedicated to changing lives with technology. With a commitment to diversity, teamwork, and professionalism, InfoVerge provides world-class innovative ICT solutions to both the private and public sectors. As a trusted partner in digital transformation, InfoVerge continues to lead with excellence in implementing and managing technologies that make a difference.

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