Online registration is inevitable. You can’t fight technology and progress

Panyaza Lesufi, Gauteng MEC for education, addresses the media about the online registration process. Picture: Muntu Nkosi
Panyaza Lesufi, Gauteng MEC for education, addresses the media about the online registration process. Picture: Muntu Nkosi

Evolving at what seems to be the speed of light, technology is becoming more and more a part of our lives. It is intertwined with our culture and has values embedded within it that help to shape our society. 

That is why we have launched an online registration for Grade 1 and 8 pupils until June 1 for the 2017 academic year. 

Of course the Gauteng department of education has come under heavy criticism and attack after the online registration system crashed after going live. 

We wish to apologise to the people of Gauteng for the technical glitches experienced in our Online Learner Application website. 

It is pity that 13 attempts to hack the system were successfully foiled. This is a matter of serious concern to the department. 

Unfortunately there are those who believe that the Gauteng’s online school system is “dysfunctional” and are concerned that it forces schools to change their language policy‚ usurping the power of governing bodies. 

They argue that the online system forcibly allocates parents and kids to nearby schools in which the teaching language may be different to their child’s home language. 

Some people argue that the online-only system discriminates against lower-income earners who cannot afford to access the internet. The critics want the department to allow parents to queue at schools like before. 

Of course, as with all of life, if we can accurately identify our obstacles, the chances to overcome those obstacles exponentially increase. We have identified the obstacles. 

When we went live for the second time after the technical glitches, the system experienced over 37 000 logins. Within the first 10 minutes, the system had successfully processed more than 72 000 applicants. 

We anticipate that the system will be able to handle a large quantity of traffic because capacity has been increased to 20 000 logins a second. 

We request people without internet to go to their local community libraries, where they will be assisted with their registration. People should also utilise free wi-fi spots in their areas to login to the site and register for their children. 

Despite the glitches and resistance to change by the doomsayers and even hackers, technology allows us to see and do things we’ve never considered possible. 

When technology comes along, it has the capability to transform how we view our world. I like to look at technology opportunities. When technology seems like it is on the cusp of viability and if it succeeds there, it can be really transformative for the world. 

The rapid growth in information technology worldwide has become more pressing for the developing nations, including our rainbow nation. 

Transparent access to the internet, cost-efficient computer literacy and smooth e-government policies like ours are but a few of the main ethics every nation is hoping to acquire in order to keep pace with the rapid developments in the IT sector. So why should we be left behind? 

I believe the technological revolution will make our country richer and eventually, economically viable. After all, in 20-30 years from now all humans will have to live in a new technological world. As Africans, we have a tremendous opportunity to penetrate this world as well. Such a penetration needs an efficient educational system, something we are trying to implement. 

The advantages of the Online Learner Application is part of our strategic effort to actively engage and partner with parents in the educational experience. We believe that the online registration is an efficient way for parents to enrol their children. 

The new registration process minimises wait times and paperwork and ensures accurate information capturing for all students. 

Trusting in technology or believing that a technology is desirable is reasonable because we talk about trusting in non-human entities in everyday discourse. 

For example, we trust a new car to operate properly so we can safely use it for travel. We trust bridges enough to calmly walk across or under them. 

Similarly, we should trust word processing software to save our data, and we trust the internet to share data with the department as part of the registration process. 

After all the advent of the digital era, the internet and the development of fast computing devices that can access mass storage servers at high communication bandwidths has brought within our reach the world of ambient intelligent systems to provide users with information communication and entertainment at any desired space and time in an intuitive, efficient and effective way requires quite some system intelligence that is generated by smart algorithms. 

This new online system will better able us to serve families by easing the registration process. It is an opportunity to eliminate many of the printed forms that must be completed by parents or guardians each year and allows them to complete those forms electronically at a time that is most convenient for them. 

I really do not understand why people resist major change. Is it fear of the unknown, erosion of power and influence, difficulty in breaking old habits, prior negative experience with change and legitimate concerns about the proposed change. 

Lest we forget that technology is defined in several ways, but is most easily understood as the study, development, and application of devices, machines, and techniques for productive processes. 

Technology is not static. Individuals are always searching for and discovering better, easier, and faster ways not only to achieve the same goals but also to exceed them as well. 

Remember, only more than two decades ago the Internet was an idea, not a reality. Once the resources were in place, it became very real. 

Is online registration a good thing? Definitely. Here are a few of the other reasons why internet based registration is a good thing? 

It is convenient. It can be done at your home or office. No travel, no hassle, no expense. Less time away from work and or family. Always available. Without technology it would be impossible to deliver products and services. 

Technology is empowering. It does more than connect people to information. It also connects people to people, teams, insights, and complex processes both within and beyond their four walls – and automates as many portions of those processes as possible. 

The future is bright. I can smell and touch it. The future is paperless. We are doing this for our children. Online registration is inevitable. It is the future. We can’t fight technology and progress.

»Panyaza Lesufi is Gauteng MEC for education

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