Kathy Gibson is at the E-Learning Summit in East London – When we talk about the digital revolution, it needs to be linked to the context of South Africa where rural schools, rural colleges and poor communities are the reality.

Khaya Matiso, principal and HRD Council at Port Elizabeth TVET Colleges, says that the digital revolution should make a contribution to narrowing the gap between rich and poor.

This will require massive investments in the schooling system, he says. “Let’s be serious about education, about e-learning and investment.”

He urges business and government to make the requisite investments to help South African learners catch up to developed countries.

“Let’s talk about strategic investments, not just a few projects.”

The use of technology and IT is phenomenal, he says. “But this technology is unable to end poverty.

“We are making advances in terms of technology, with development and innovation, but are we making a contribution to ending poverty?”

Matiso is convinced that technology, if properly implemented, can assist us in promoting employment.

“But today we have hundreds of unemployed graduates. The possible answer could be student entrepreneurship. Students need to get the idea that after graduation they can employ themselves.

“It is possible to use technology and e-learning opportunities and open learning, to promote student entrepreneurship.”

He points out that, in Germany, the colleges’ mandate is not to produce employees but entrepreneurs.

“We talk about innovation, but lets make sure it is used to promote student entrepreneurship.”

Matiso comments that technology should exist to promote learning, innovation and creativity.

“My view is that a very specific advantage is to promote learning, use technology to advance this learning, to ensure there is flexibility in our learning processes.”

Connectivity is always an issue. Currently there is a connectivity project being run by the national Department of Higher Education to connect colleges around the country.

“But here is the question: do you have the right investment to make sure that connectivity is implemented? And are we ready as teachers, lecturers and managers for this project?

“And what about the infrastructure? Is that investment sustainable? We are not talking about a one-year project here. We need to think about maintenance and skills that are needed.”

Matiso says there is an opportunity for colleges in the Eastern Cape to work with government to meet these challenges.

“Perhaps as a way forward, we need think about building centres of excellence in the provinces’ eight TVET colleges.”

There are 700 000 students currently enrolled in TVET colleges in South Africa, with a goal of 1,7-million within the next few years. The outcomes range from NQF Level 2 to NQF Level 6.