The original eduroam use case was for a researcher at one institution to easily be able to collaborate with researchers at another institution without having to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get Internet access. This is relevant in South Africa too, because we have a great deal of inter-institution collaboration, but a more important use-case, when you bring eduroam to Africa, is the potential it has to play in bridging the digital divide.
In 2015, Rhodes University partnered with the Makana Municipality to provide eduroam access to students living in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown). This means all students, including UNISA students, can connect to eduroam in several libraries and a community centre. Then in June 2019 the City of Cape Town and TENET turned on eduroam in 57 of the city’s public libraries. Both have proved hugely enabling for their respective local communities.
The national White Paper for Post-School Education and Training recognises that access to ICTs is now “an indispensable infrastructural component for effective education provision”(§7.4) with many critical learning materials only available online. The need to make ICTs available closer to where people live has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The reality of South Africa is that those in most need often live furthest from our campuses.
Deploying eduroam on city wireless infrastructure and public hotspots significantly increases its footprint, allowing more students to be reached closer to their homes. Moreover deploying eduroam is strongly aligned with the strategic focus areas of many cities and helps achieve social development goals. It is responsive to the plight of students and takes active steps to ensure that those students from underprivileged backgrounds have equal opportunities.
By bringing eduroam closer to where students live, we empower them to achieve, and ultimately we help grow the country.
For these reasons, TENET is keen to collaborate with more local and provincial municipalities and public hotspot providers to make this a reality. There are a great many ways this can happen and potential for synergies if we can just start the conversation.