iBurst has launched its pre-paid student package to all University of Stellenbosch students this week in a step to bringing affordable broadband access to campuses across South Africa.
Students would need to purchase an iBurst prepaid starter kit, or register an existing iBurst modem, and then top up with R100 Student Prepaid vouchers. These allow for up to one Gigabyte of general Internet access, or up to five gigabytes of data to be used on university-based sites so that students can access all university related sites and online educational tools.
iBurst¹s Student Prepaid vouchers provide bandwidth at a sixth of the cost of normal consumer pre-paid offering, and one thirtieth of the normal retail cost when accessing university sites and it¹s a pay-as-you-use service, so students don¹t have to worry about coming up with the money every month for a contract.
"The Internet and Web based e-learning tools greatly support learning in our universities, and many students are pursuing studies in fields requiring regular access to campus computer resources for experiments or system modelling," says Jannie van Zyl, CEO of iBurst. "We wanted to help students and educators by providing a solution that improves access specifically in the tertiary learning environment, which is linked by TENET, the tertiary education network that connects all related sites and online tools."
A 2007 paper entitled "The impact of South Africa¹s ICT infrastructure on Higher Education" highlights the issues of bandwidth cost and resulting limitations on what is possible and easy to do in an e-learning environment. The paper also raises a concern over the digital divide pointing out that while on-campus access is equal, when off-campus it is not.
This initiative is aimed at students working off-campus who need to access the university resources to complete their work.
The starter pack costs R999 and includes an iBurst Wireless USB modem, an email address, easy installation CD and 30MB of data. Students then top up their bandwidth with Student Prepaid vouchers which cost R100, and give them the choice of 5GB university access, or 1Gb general Internet access, or a combination of both. iBurst has essentially lowered its bandwidth costs to R0.10 per megabyte for general Internet use and only R0.02 per Megabyte for university sites so students will use the bandwidth they buy according to what sites they visit.
Once the pilot has proved successful in Stellenbosch, iBurst will take the model of replicate it across as many higher education institutions as possible. "Education needs to be affordable and accessible to all students. By providing a lower cost, customised access solution to universities, iBurst will be part of students¹ journey by giving them a helping hand," concludes van Zyl.