5 April 2007
South African financial services group Nedbank and American technology company Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) have entered into a partnership to provide technology solutions to five historically disadvantaged schools in the country.
The two companies opened the first fully equipped computing centre at the Nelson R Mandela High School in Gugulethu outside Cape Town on Monday.
The school was selected as the first of several schools that will implement Learning Labs, and the companies hope it will have a lasting impact on Gugulethu.
Learning Labs is an initiative by AMD to provide benefactors with computers and internet connectivity, as well as professional, educational and personal development tools to provide new ways for teachers and pupils to interact with each other.
The labs feature systems capable of operating Windows or Linux and come with installed content and applications. To ensure the sustainability of the project, the partners will also provide the schools with teacher training programmes and maintenance and support for the labs.
Microsoft, Cisco, Tarsus, First for Business, CompuTainer, @tlantic and Learnthings will also provide additional support for the Learning Labs.
“We are confident that this learning lab and the others to follow it will greatly enhance the local educational system’s ability to provide students with the skills and information they need to achieve success in an increasingly competitive, digital world,” said Nedbank South Africa chief executive Tom Boardman.
He said the partnership was an innovative way to meet the needs of South African communities and address the digital divide. The labs also use low-power systems that are compact and sealed, enabling them to last in a harsh environment.
Several Learning Labs around the world together form part of AMD’s 50×15 initiative, launched at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in 2004, which aims to provide access to computing and internet connectivity to 50% of the world’s population by 2015.
“The positive effects of the Learning Labs extend beyond the students and teachers at the schools and into the greater community by providing an incredible community resource for educational and economic development opportunities,” said AMD vice president Gautam Srivastava.
According to the AMD statement, experience at previous lab deployments have shown that access the internet persuades students to stay enrolled in school for longer and make use of the available technology.
The two partners want to learn from their experiences in Gugulethu, hoping it will enable them to expand the Nedbank-AMD 50×15 partnership across South Africa in the “coming months”.