With President Cyril Ramaphosa firmly committed to digitising the public school education system over the next six years, there is strong momentum for this critical shift to take place. The President has even committed to providing every school child in SA with digital workbooks and digital textbooks on tablet devices. Yet schools arguably need far more than just tablets to truly harness the benefits of digital transformation. Innovations in the hardware sphere, such as the introduction of powerful micro-computers, for example, can provide immediate and significant benefits for educational institutions across the country.
Today, a micro-computing device can provide the same levels of technology and computing power that a traditional desktop PC can, yet in a far smaller form factor. This makes it more versatile, affordable and even more effective in certain environments than its larger counterpart.
“In schools, for example, and especially those in rural or outlying areas, a micro-computing device makes far more sense than a bulky PC because it is small and it is easier to install and maintain,” says Xavier Nel, head of product at CloudGate. “Importantly, it is also simple and easy to replace.”
Making tech seamless
Thanks to rapid advances in technology and the emphasis on innovation over the past several years, micro-computing can provide a near faultless solution for leaders looking to spearhead digitisation. Indeed, in the early days of micro-computing, such devices only offered very limited performance, thus reducing the number of applications or programs that could run on them. Today, the devices have increased their memories eight-fold, from 1Gb at the start to the current 8Gb. Besides, micro-computing technology is now able to offer wireless (Wi-Fi), Bluetooth and even SD card readers.
According to Nel, micro-computers make use of solid-state drives, allowing them to outperform most desktops (which still use moving parts in their hard drives). Notably, micro-computing devices are also designed for ‘plug-and-play’: a school can have additional devices on hand, and swap these out quickly and easily if there are any issues.
Keeping in mind that true digitisation means shifting key IT functions to the Cloud and developing a seamlessly connected learning environment, micro-computing also facilitates the reduction of peripheral infrastructure. Essentially, this is because wireless connectivity eliminates the need for vast quantities of cabling, while Bluetooth makes it easy to connect things like keyboards and mouses.
“Also, perhaps the most transformative benefit for the educational sector is the fact that these devices are much more robust than desktop PCs,” adds Nel. “PCs have a lot of moving parts, which means that any rough handling or transportation may cause damage. Yet with micro-computers, these can be hidden away by attaching them to the backs of monitors or under desks, while the lack of moving parts means it is that much more difficult to break.”
Green computing, energy savings
With the cost of electricity now prohibitively high, micro-computing also provides an energy-efficient solution for schools. Nel points out that a micro-computer generally only uses around 10% of the power used by desktops. In a school environment, this could translate to tens or even hundreds of thousands of rands saved just in electricity costs!
Yet for micro-computing to make a difference and to take digitisation forward, decision-makers have to understand and embrace the solution. Sadly, many within the education sphere remain sceptical, even in the face of on-premise micro-computing demonstrations.
“Digitisation within schools is a national imperative, and there can be no doubt that micro-computing offers the ideal starting point for digital transformation,” states Nel. “This technology is not only perfect for the classroom but can be used across the entire organisation – such as in the administrative, HR and finance functions. Importantly, it also empowers schools to move away from reliance on expensive desktops and adopt technology designed for wireless connectivity. This is the path to the future, and to the type of learning environment that will best serve the generations to come.”