"According to the Children's Institute at UCT, South Africa has 26,000 schools and 12.2 million learners, an average of about 470," says Cloudware's Jonathan Young. "With the technology available right now, we could provide one computer for every four children within four years. With affordable solar power and satellite connectivity, that includes even the most remote schools; there's no need to wait for new buildings and Eskom electricity supply. The government seems to be assuming that giving our children access to this life-changing technology is beyond our reach as a country, but it really doesn't have to be that difficult. It can be done."
Cloudware believe the government has budgeted almost R16 billion to build a national private cloud for schools. "But for a budget allocation that big, they could get a lot more. Are we as a nation going to pay more than we should, just because that's what's in the budget?" Asks Young.
Cloudgate, a desktop replacement system Cloudware launched earlier this year, is just one example of the innovative technologies that could be applied. "Cloudgate delivers all the functionality of a traditional desktop PC at a fraction of the cost. You simply plug in a screen, mouse and keyboard to a hand-sized device and you have not only a full Android operating system, but also access to any Windows application based on the central server."
Additionally, bandwidth is not a constraint, he says: "This whole product is designed for low-bandwidth environments, so it works over a slow cellular connection or via satellite. And Cloudgate devices draw just 10W of power – the same as an energy-saving light bulb – so using solar power is entirely feasible."
"We could start putting state of the art computer technology in schools tomorrow, and in four years cover the whole country," Young surmises. "However, there is no doubt the government will say it's not that simple – but why not? There are even major international players who are prepared to offer access to amazing technology for free, no strings attached. Yet government IT still seems to be stuck in an old mindset that everything has to be slow, difficult and expensive. It's frustrating to see the gap between what is possible and what South Africa is actually getting."