Johannesburg - Ten years and R3-billion later, and Gauteng Online, the biggest school computer project in the country, has effectively been cancelled – with the Gauteng government owning no equipment to show for it.
On Tuesday, MEC for Finance Mandla Nkomfe announced at a media conference that the project was “under strategic review”.
He said the current Gauteng Online tender had been cancelled and the project would be incorporated into a Gauteng Broadband Network, whose full scope would be announced in two weeks’ time.
Nkomfe denied the tender had been cancelled as a result of unfair competitive practice allegations, with tender specifications giving an advantage to the current supplier, SMMT Online (now known as CloudSeed). There have been numerous allegations that the project had not been running effectively, with some school communities giving it the nickname “Gauteng Offline”.
The Star has published articles in the past few months about the Gauteng Online tender, which would have seen 652 schools receiving tablets and the continuation of 1 652 school internet-connected computer labs that were installed in schools around the province over the past five years.
The Star revealed that SMMT Online owns all the computer equipment, including all computers, the entire network and source codes. Any other company tendering would either have had to buy all the equipment from SMMT or replace the equipment – hiking the cost of its tender bid significantly.
Nkomfe said the department had decided to cancel the tender because it needed to redesign the project to incorporate e-learning. “The main component to e-learning is tablets, so we may not need those computer labs going forward,” said Nkomfe.
The MEC said they were talking to SMMT Online for the company to carry on providing the Gauteng Online service in the interim.
He insisted it would take no longer than a month or two before the move to the Gauteng Broadband Network, which is a network that will deliver services such as video, voice and data to government entities, schools and hospitals. It will incorporate 1 600km of high-speed fibre.
Nkomfe held the media conference after answering questions by the DA MPL for finance Mike Moriarty in the legislature. - The Star