Gauteng’s department of finance has canned the controversy-ridden Gauteng Online project meant to provide connectivity and computing to the province’s schools. Instead, it has issued a new tender for what it calls “e-learning solutions”, in terms of which suppliers will provide 80 000 tablets to 1 600 schools in the province.
In announcing the cancellation of the Gauteng Online project in March, provincial finance minister Mandla Nkomfe said his department had decided to review the project, awarded to a company called SMMT (renamed Cloudseed) and valued at R2bn, in order to “incorporate a comprehensive e-learning aspect”.
Nkomfe also said there were plans to integrate the programme with the Gauteng Broadband Network, once it is operational. This network is the province’s project to connect government buildings, clinics and schools using a network of more than 1 600km of fibre-optic cables.
The original tender to provide schools with computer facilities and get them online expired in December, with more than 500 of the 2 200 schools that were meant to be provided with hardware and connectivity still in need of them. Of the schools that had received equipment, some reported abandoning it, calling it “unusable”.
In March, the department said that until a new tender was concluded, it would continue doing business with Cloudseed on a month-to-month basis.
On Wednesday, The Star newspaper reported that a closed tender was issued in May to 15 companies, asking them to provide 80 000 tablets, with each of the 1 600 schools set to receive 50 tablets.
The department say it is in the process of evaluating the bids it has received.
The revised tender stipulates that the successful bidder ensure the tablets have Internet access. It adds that ideally connectivity should be uncapped.
On 14 May, the department issued a statement from Nkomfe saying that suggestions the Gauteng Online project was “completely dysfunctional” were not accurate and that the “figures at our disposal indicate that in the period to May this year, more than 708 000 learners, and a further 38 000 educators used the Gauteng Online network every day”.
“The total budget for this project over a five-year period is R2bn and thus far approximately R1,3bn has been spent,” Nkomfe said. “This translates to approximately 65% that was spent on the project, while 71% of the project deliverables have been achieved to date. This shows that we have made significant progress on implementing this project.”
In a statement on Thursday, the department said it would soon begin rolling out the e-learning solution to Gauteng schools. It said the solution would enable learners “to access educational material through end-user devices such as tablets, ultrabooks, smartphones or netbooks”.
Two tenders have been issued. The first, closed tender was issued to potential suppliers of tablet computers. The second, open tender is to appoint a company to handle network connectivity and was issued on the 14 June. This second tender closes on 28 June.
The department was unable to answer questions put to it by TechCentral on Wednesday afternoon about what measures would be taken to ensure these tenders didn’t suffer the same fate as the original, why the tender for tablets was closed, or how much the new tender is likely to cost the province. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media