Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Online project on skids

Hitches, rows keep schools off the Internet

GAUTENG’S ambitious R734-million project to provide Internet access to more than 2000 public schools is in tatters.
Gauteng Online, launched with much fanfare four years ago, is battling to connect schools that have computers to the Internet.
Metro has established that, with only one year to go before the deadline, more than 50% of schools have still not received computers.
At those that have, a technical problem is keeping some from logging on to the central network that should give them Internet access.
In addition, a looming court battle between signal distributor Sentech and a private company threatens to further derail the initiative.
The project is an initiative of the provincial education department, which this week admitted it was experiencing problems with the roll-out.
Tom Waspe, chief information officer in the department, said that while 85% of the schools with computers were connected to the Internet, there were “difficulties with the application for logging onto the network”.
“We are working closely with Sentech and schools to ensure that all users know how to log on to the system,” Waspe said. Thus far, 28600 computers have been handed out to 1100 schools.
Sentech declined to answer questions on the project.
Dr Pranill Ramchander, spokesman for Sentech, said: “As a supplier we are not allowed to converse with the media.”
Sentech fell out with its empowerment partner, Business Data Solutions (BDS), a company it had subcontracted to work on the project.
Two months ago BDS, which was responsible for help-desk services, was expelled from the project.
“Sentech was forced to terminate the BDS relationship due to performance issues which are not [related to] either BEE or any other matter raised by BDS,” Gladwin Marumo, chief operating officer of Sentech, told Metro.
But BDS has claimed it had been used by Sentech in order to secure the contract.
The company’s director, Nathan Momsen, has blamed Sentech for the failure of the project.
Momsen said that, two years after the project was rolled out, most of the schools which stood to benefit still did not have access to e-mail or the Internet.
The company intended launching a civil claim against Sentech to recover damages it suffered as a result of its involvement in the project, he said.

Read the Sunday Times story written by ISAAC MAHLANGU, 04 December 2005

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