The National Electronic Media Institution of South Africa (NEMISA) in partnership with WSU hosted a research colloquium themed ‘Bridging the Digital Divide: Connectivity and Sustainable Centres in Rural Communities’ in East London.

NEMISA, a state agency under the communications and digital technologies department which funds the eSkills CoLab at WSU, is an organisation that collaborates with multiple stakeholders to teach and provide e-skills training to communities and schools from rural areas.

NEMISA’s thematic area is ICT for rural development, which is meant to impact positively and provide digital skills training in rural areas and semi urban areas so as to break the barriers of knowledge and information exchange by working with local ICT centres offering e- skills qualifications. This is to maximise the use of existing infrastructure and resources to ensure that education and training respond to the demands and needs for e-skills especially now with the fourth industrial revolution taking place.

“Another collaboration is the one between WSU and six TVET Colleges in the Eastern Cape to sample and identify areas that need training. Another reason for these collaborations is because they have the ICT infrastructure within their institutions which are located in remote areas of Eastern Cape and these academic institutions also have a mandate for community engagements,” said Sibukele Gumbo, director for ICT Rural Development e-skills CoLab in the Eastern Cape.

Amongst other things NEMISA offers digital literacy courses with NQF level 1-2, does cyber awareness for school pupils under the digital literacy banner and provides robotics training for learners in various high schools working together with the Department of Basic Education to identify schools in need of the programmes. During the colloquium, space was provided for the investigation of ways to create sustainable centres for connectivity, digital skills training and online learning.

It also looked at existing models such as the Thusong Centres initiated by government and whether or not they are serving the purpose they were intended for as well as looking at the best practices and solutions.

Gumbo added that: “One of our strongest points in Eastern Cape is that we are part of the ICT working group where various representatives from government departments meet quarterly to update each other on the initiatives that are taking place around the province. This is usually hosted by the Office of the Premier and Eastern Cape Socio Economic Consultative Council (ECSECC)”.

Success stories from local ICT centres such as Silulo Ulutho Technologies and Kasana Computer School gave insight on the services they provide through their businesses.

WSU Research Chair in Sustainable Rural Development, Prof Gilingwe Mayende: “It is very rare to find people from different perspective that seem to be thinking and moving in the similar direction. What remains now is for us to bring it all together, with different institutions and government departments laying emphasis on the things that need to be done in order to invigorate process whereby our rural areas can become truly developed through initiatives aimed at empowering those that live in those areas”.

By: Asiphe Mdlamza

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