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Vodacom, Microsoft announce game-changer for SA education

Vodacom Business and Microsoft South Africa have partnered in a Connected Digital Education initiative, based on the roll out of a Connected Digital Education Platform to enable remote learning with affordable connectivity.

The platform will provide learners with access to tools, apps and resources (including cloud-based Office 365 for Education and Microsoft Teams for Education), while educators can use the resource to facilitate virtual classes via chat or voice using a SIM card where access to Microsoft Teams is provided for free.

This allows users to continue learning regardless of where they are or what device they are using, the companies claim.

Lillian Barnard, managing director of Microsoft SA.
Lillian Barnard, managing director of Microsoft SA.

“This empowers both educators and learners, and enables learning to continue in a seamless manner, which is a priority for Microsoft as we aim to ensure that South African learners are equipped with the right tools and skills needed to make them future-ready. The ability to bring together learning into one hub or solution is invaluable, and forms an important part of our commitment to building a complete education solution with critical partnerships with organisations like Vodacom Business,” says Lillian Barnard, Managing Director at Microsoft South Africa.

Microsoft highlighted a study completed in conjunction with the IDC which showed that 54% of respondents foresee an increase in the need for digital skills in the next two years.

Barnard adds: “Today globally, one in two jobs will require technical skills and it’s predicted that in less than ten years, three out of four jobs will require technical skills. We know that technology is a powerful tool to empower learners and educators to create the workforce of the future, but we also believe that educational models must adapt to equip children with skills to create a more inclusive, cohesive and productive world. That is because many of today’s school children will work in new jobs that do not exist yet.”

Digital skills sets aside, children will also require social and emotional skills for the workplace of the future says Barnard.

“… and this will require a more personalised approach to learning. So with affordable and ease of use technology platforms that transform classroom time, educators can now be freed up to focus on student-centred learning to ensure that they improve learning outcomes.”

“Due to the disruption caused by the current pandemic, education in South Africa has faced a challenging time … we’ve seen the impact that it is having on learners as well as educators. The pandemic has made the case for change very clear, and it has elevated the importance of digital platforms and also new models are creating learner engagements, because educators across the world, for some time now, have highlighted the need that society needs to re-imagine the way in which students learn. We’ve started embracing online learning and it’s becoming our new normal and we hope that this shift will actually happen much faster than expected.”

Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom Group adds: “As a company with a purpose to connect for a better future, we are leveraging our ongoing partnership with Microsoft to provide educational institutions, from schools through to universities, with an education bundle of data at an affordable rate to participating institutions. We are fundamentally accelerating digital transformation in education through online learning now and well into the future.”

William Mzimba, CEO, Vodacom Business says South Africa’s learning environment resembles the evolution of education as a country, and translates into how today, from a technology standpoint, we have been thinking about education.

“I have been in a number of discussions with the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Higher Education, as well as with regulators, and a number of discussions also with the broader industry. The issue we face here is that immediately we need to provide a response to how we can orchestrate education in the context of the pandemic and the need for social distancing and everything else. So instead of thinking only about long-term, we’ve had to be much more responsive in the short term to provide solutions that are relevant today.”

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