On one of his regular visits to the African continent, Intel chairman Craig Barrett today helped roll out a national program to make wireless, broadband Internet service affordable to thousands of university students. He also stepped up Intel’s commitment to education in Africa by announcing a new agreement to provide technology support to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Intel’s contribution to NEPAD, an affiliation of African governments working to promote economic growth and sustainability, will include serving as an adviser to help accelerate the use of computing, wireless broadband and other technologies to benefit Africans.
“It is a privilege to strengthen Intel’s support for NEPAD’s education initiatives,” says Barrett, who also chairs the United Nations Global Alliance for Information Communications Technology (ICT) and Development. “Intel and NEPAD share the vision that investments in education are crucial, not only for the youth of today but also for the sustained social and economic health of Africa’s countries into the future.”
The wireless campus project that Barrett helped launch today is expected to vastly increase the limited number of Wi-Fi hotspots now available on university campuses and reduce the cost for students. It will begin with an initial roll-out early next year to the top 10 campuses, and then on a national scale.
Beginning early next year, Internet Solutions, a local ISP, will deploy a ubiquitous Wi-Fi network that is expected to cut in half the cost a student may pay for broadband Internet services through Wi-Fi hotspots. Less than 5% of university students own computers, and the cost of Internet connections is a key hurdle for most of them.
“The collaboration today could potentially provide connectivity to more than 100,000 students and propel them to the next level of global competitiveness in the years to come,” said Angus MacRobert, the CEO of Internet Solutions. “Bridging the digital divide with broadband is key to driving ICT growth in South Africa and opening up these opportunities to universities nationwide.”
The initiative is widely endorsed by South Africa’s Department of Education and administrators at the various institutions. “We believe that collaboration with multinationals like Intel is key to helping South African students interact with technology at a young age and to channel their energies into innovative ideas as a springboard to research and development. Dr. Barrett’s visit to South Africa today is testimony to the companys’ commitment to working with University Councils to up-level IT integration in academic arenas” said Professor Errol Tyobeka, vice chancellor at Tshwane University of Technology.
Barrett also announced an alliance between Intel and the Ministry of Science and Technology for Mozambique. It extends the Intel World Ahead Program into the states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which supports education initiatives in that region.
Barrett pointed to the three announcements as strong examples of partnerships between governments and private industry. The NEPAD agreement formalizes Intel’s working relationship with the NEPAD e-Africa Commission. NEPAD is a pan-African forum of governments led by Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa. The forum works to uplift social and economic conditions across the continent by spearheading initiatives in education, health care and trade relations.
“The NEPAD e-Schools initiative with Intel is a top priority for all of Africa,” said Henry Chasia, deputy chairperson of the NEPAD e-Africa Commission. “It will help ensure that African youth graduate with skills that enable them to effectively participate in the global information society and knowledge economy.”
Intel’s technology support for NEPAD will focus on the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, with the potential to encompass other African nations as needs and resources dictate.
NEPAD will now be able to use the newly established Intel Knowledge Centre in South Africa. Designed as a how-to resource, the centre is a growing base of information and policy advice intended to help African governments integrate ICT into their school systems.
The Intel Knowledge Centre draws on best-known practices from the company’s experience with established education-related initiatives and programs. These include the Intel® Teach program, which is designed to enhance classroom learning by training teachers to integrate technology into the curriculum; the Intel® skoool™ Learning and Teaching Technology, an interactive Internet resource for learning maths and science; student and teacher laptop initiatives; and low-cost Internet connectivity solutions. The centre also offers access to resources available through Intel’s key industry affiliates, such as content providers and NGOs.
The third public-private partnership that Barrett announced today lays the groundwork for Intel to develop technology-based education initiatives in Mozambique. Intel’s efforts are expected to focus on the Intel World Ahead programs that have proved successful in other countries in Africa and around the world, including teacher training, locally-relevant content for digital schooling and programs that make affordable PCs available to teachers.
In addition, Mozambique’s government has expressed interest in a Portuguese-language version of the Intel-powered classmate PC. The affordable, full-featured, compact and rugged student laptop is designed to promote interactive and collaborative learning among students and teachers.
Intel hopes that a formalized relationship with the Mozambican government will pave the way for bringing educational initiatives to neighboring countries that also belong to the SADC. Besides Mozambique and South Africa, the SADC includes Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Seychelles, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.