South Africa, like many other developing nations, is faced with the challenge of educating the future generation in hopes of building a basis for larger industrial economy. Information and communication technologies have shown the potential to generate sustainable economic growth and an ability to create wealth and prosperity in all sectors of economy, and South Africa is no exception in putting its efforts to support with resources to effectively educate the population.
"In the Gauteng province, as the economic hub of sub-Saharan African National, the Provincial Government has recognized the need to lead the rest of the country in its educational efforts." The Gauteng Provincial Government Department of Education (GDE) has aligned itself with the National Government’s goals to raise the education level of the population. The GDE, through the ‘Gauteng Online’ (GOL) program, plans to provide all learners with IT access by 2013 by establishing computer labs and network for every school in Gauteng. This two-billion-Rand GOL program was the biggest IT project in South Africa and the project was managed by the SMMT consortium.
The goal of the GOL project is to build a province-wide schools’ IT network with a computer laboratory for all 2,500 schools in Gauteng to deliver curriculum and conduct assessment via Internet and e-mail. Each lab will consist of 24 learning workstations, a teacher workstation, a printer and a UPS equipped gateway server and satellite dishes.
The government tender was won by SMM Telemetics and Beget Holdings Ltd., South Africa’s leading system integrator, as a part of the SMMT consortium. Beget was to provide a biometric log-on system and an anti-theft alarm system with monitoring software.
The GDE desired to integrate an e-learning system with a biometrics log-on system at all public schools in Gauteng in order to keep their education system more competitive. The biometrics application was chosen mainly to protect users’ (students) privacy when accessing personal information and academic materials.
The GDE was concerned with the security and stability of the system when handling large numbers of users on a daily basis. In addition, they wanted the system to support server and client communication to protect the personal fingerprint information in a secure manner and provide quick access to information by performing storing and matching at the server for added privacy protection.
Suprema’s major contribution to the GOL project was to supply their biometric solution. Suprema’s SFU-300, a fingerprint scanner module with USB interface, was installed to each workstation at the schools.
Beget selected Suprema’s SFU-300 solutions among several available fingerprint scanners after a series of tests to verify the best fingerprint solution for the case. Major selection criteria were product reliability, performance and vendor’s industry expertise. SFU-300, with Suprema’s award winning algorithm and technological expertise, was suited best for enterprise-level biometric solutions and specifically the GOL project.
When users put their fingers on SFU-300, it transmits the fingerprint information to the server and returns matching results to the client PC, which will show the latest page they studied. All fingerprint data in the system are encrypted for higher security and Suprema supports scalable fingerprint template technology for fast matching speed among a huge fingerprint database stored in the server.
“This is the first biometric authentication school project in South Africa. In the public tender, the consortium was successful with Suprema’s faster verification speed and accuracy. Since we are receiving very positive feedback from our clients, we expect to complete the project ahead of our plan,” said a Beget executive.
The system has successfully implemented and is operating in public schools in Gauteng province. Based on the success in Gauteng province, South African government has a plan to extend establishing biometric e-learning system to all other public schools nationwide.
‘Gauteng Online’ is a 2 billion Rand (US$ 256million) project in total. Around 27,000 PC units will be supplied with Suprema’s biometric solution by Q2 2009. And upon successful launching of this project, Suprema is expecting additional 33,000 PC deal by 2011.