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Digital Doorways open communities to technology

By   |  February 21, 2007

On Monday this week the deputy minister of science and technology, Derek Hanekom, opened the Digital Doorway project at eMjindini Public Library in Barberton, Mpumalanga.

Aimed at improving South Africa’s computer literacy, Digital Doorway is a joint project between the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Meraka Institute. Among its aims, the project seeks to enable end users with the skills to interact with and use technology confidently and to transfer these skills to communities that have had limited computer access.

Running on open source software, the doorways are robust, freestanding multimedia terminals with a keyboard and touchpad. Using a satellite receiver and GPRS, content can be updated, users can supply feedback and monitoring of the system can be done in real time.

The Digital Doorways carry Open Office, educational games, scientific software, 10 000 books from project Gutenburg, snapshots of Wikipedia, curriculum based educational videos, interactive science simulations and an introduction to computer terminology among their many programs.

Barberton’s facility is one of 100 Digital Doorways to be rolled out by the end of March. This rollout is the second phase of the project which began with the installation of the first Digital Doorway in Cwili in the Eastern Cape in 2002. So far 100 seats have been put in place across the country.

The DST plans future deployments at community centres, schools, shops and colleges. Of these, 50 will be installed in schools to act as wireless hubs for providing free broadband to the surrounding communities.

Future research by the Meraka Institute will focus on expanding functionality and the development of a sustainable model for the Digital Doorways.

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