Bridging the Digital Divide One E-Centre at a Time
Entrenching Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) reach in rural areas is one of the Western Cape Government's main objectives. Although the Western Cape has made significant inroads in ICT development when compared to other regions in South Africa, the lack of Information Technology (IT) infrastructure and knowledge about government services and programmes remains a challenge.
In keeping with the "Better Together" slogan, the Western Cape Government tackles the rural digital divide issue in the province through the Cape Access Project. The project is run by e-Government for Citizens, a directorate in the Department of the Premier.
The Cape Access Project is a pioneering initiative whose goal is to provide computers with internet connection in community centres, libraries and any points that can be easily accessed by the Western Cape public in outlying areas. Access to the computer terminals is free of charge and each user gets a limited daily duration with extra benefits such as free personal e-mail address and access to training and jobs databases.
To date, the project has established a total of 20 e-Community Centres around the Western Cape. The public can expect the following from each centre:
- Access to Information Technology
- Fully equipped e-Community Centres.
- Facilities available after hours and on Saturdays.
- ICT training
- Basic ICT skills, internet, e-mail, Word, Excel, PowerPoint.
- Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) projects.
- Information and communication facilities
- Internet access facilities - free (45 minutes per day).
- E-mail account for users.
- Electronic transacting facilities
- With local governments, provincial government, receiver of revenue, banks, shops and other online services.
The project continues to embrace one of the Western Cape Government values of responsiveness and inclusiveness. All 20 e-Community Centres are run in collaboration with community structures known as e-Community Forums. The forums are elected for three-year terms and their main role is to drive ICT projects at community level, manage e-Community Centres and offer computer literacy training within their communities.
During the 2011-2012 financial year, the Cape Access Project has trained over 1 600 users in basic and advanced International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL) training. The project continues to grow its user base and had recorded a total of 75 517 users by mid-2012.
Some of the beneficiaries had this to say about Cape Access:
"I'd like to express my sincere appreciation and thanks to the management of Saturnus Computer Training Centre, especially the facilitators who were so helpful and patient during the period of my computer training." - Jimmy Jansen, May 2012 graduate.
"I really enjoyed the course, doing the Basic Computer Literacy course was of great benefit yet challenging because sitting in front of a computer every day is very frustrating if you don't understand how to use it. What I would say is that having basic computer literacy is an advantage in any work environment." - Ilise Bosman, November 2011 graduate.
"Attending the computer literacy course was an enjoyable experience that I would not exchange for anything in the world. I learned a lot, even at my age. Continue offering your good work." - Violet Du Preez, May 2012 graduate.
As the need for ICTs in the Western Cape is constantly increasing, the Cape Access Project hopes have about 40 fully-equipped centres and at least 4000 ICDL graduates by 2014.