Here at GCC we believe that donating our expertise and IT resources is the most valuable way to make a difference to help worthy charities both at home and abroad.

computer_training_496x330In a poverty stricken province of Kwazulu Natal in South Africa the Imbokodo Computer Training School was set up to help local children achieve their dreams of becoming computer literate.

Imbokodo presented an opportunity for local children to learn basic computer skills. Setting up the computer school was not an easy task, so GCC decided to carry out some pro bono work to help set up an Internet connection as well as donating PCs and IT equipment.

GCC continue to support the Imbokodo Computer School where we can.

If you know of any worthy charities where we could make a difference by providing pro bono work – Please get in touch.

Update 2016 – GCC sponsor Internet connection and laptop for Imbokodo (report and photo's from Paul Tomlinson)

We’ve had a very interesting few weeks in southern Africa. We went into Swaziland which we’ve never visited before – a low population country with beautiful scenery, good roads and a lot less poverty than South Africa. But of course the main point of our visit was the computer schools and not only our oldest very successful school but the start-up of two new schools.

The highlight was seeing the new building for Imbokodo. We started the school in a leaky rondavel which had been lent to us and previously had been a kitchen. After  four years working in those very poor conditions, our NGO partner, Zimele and ourselves had raised enough money to erect a completely new building which the school moved into last July.

Old school building

Old school building

A Dutch charity provided a pre-fabricated toilet building with flush toilets operated with water harvested from its roof. For Europeans this was magic since the previous toilet was of the long drop variety with a corrugated steel door hanging off its hinges. The new building had been built by a proper contractor who had made a first class job of it and on completion, the women’s’ management committee raised enough cash to have the floor professionally tiled. We’ve got 30 machines set up and 29 are actually operating. My only disappointment was the internet connection. When I tried to get on line, I waited 15 minutes before a connection was made and then it was impossibly slow. The problem is that there are several thousand people using an old mast operated by Vodacom and although a petition is being collected to get them to upgrade the mast ahead of their planned upgrade in 2016, it’s just not viable as a means of internet training. Despite my disappointment on this issue, they have been running internet training courses on Saturday mornings when perhaps the network is less loaded. Your donation last year was for two years of connection subscription but I think that depending on what alternative I can find, we might use the second year’s subscription towards some alternative which we have yet to find.

I set up a meeting with an IT firm which Zimele uses for their office systems and their man came up with a very interesting option. I had it in my mind that we needed a satellite connection but he said that a better and lower cost system was available based on a radio mast system which, could pick up a signal from a mast just a few miles away set up for a series of commercial farms. He is exploring the possibility with a local operator and is going to get some numbers for  me. Subsequently when visiting another new project some distance away and completely rural and found only by grid reference, I met a sixth generation English farmer who was interested in the our project at a nearby school. His farmhouse was a time warp of a 50’s British home but it was lovely. He gave us cold drinks and when I asked him if he had an internet connection, he said yes and it turned out to be the same system that our IT man was exploring. He said it was very reliable though without sufficient bandwidth to download films. He’s agreed to be our internet/email contact for the new nearby school.  

New School Building

New School Building

The management committee at Imbokodo had prepared a presentation for me which took about four hours. There are twelve women on the committee and they look after security, marketing, training supervision and accounting. I had to respond to every member who gave a presentation and all this had to be interpreted into Zulu. The treasurer gave a report in which she gave a line by line report of income and expenditure over the last four years! My timing on introducing software accounting couldn’t have been better. They received the suggestion very favourably and so the next day I began training them on using a simple Excel spreadsheet to do income and expenditure and to run this in parallel with their hand written ledger. After three months we will then introduce them to the software package which I had purchased in the UK from an outfit called ‘Mr’. They have produced a simple accounting system for clubs, societies and small businesses all based on Excel with all the macros locked in. I showed the software to a lady employed by Zimele – she is a Zimbabwean and has a degree in Higher Management & Business studies. We loaded it on her computer and she just loved it and said it was just what they needed. She had lightening keyboard skills and we quickly set it up for the eventual adoption by the Imbokodo treasurer though of course we want to use this on a laptop .

So, about the laptop. Firstly there is an issue with the local power supply. The South African government owned, electrical utility called Eskom have under invested in generating capacity and run a daily system of load shedding. A timetable of how each district will lose its power for approximately two hours at a time is published but is unreliable. So if the treasurer is doing accounts on a laptop with a good battery, a sudden loss of power won’t cause any file corruption.

If, from your offer of several laptops, just one good one can be produced that will be sufficient for present purposes. We are running Windows 7 on all the school machines so they are acquainted with that system but the accounting software is for Excel 2010. If you could load a clean machine with Windows 7 and Office 2010, that would be ideal.

My plan is to get your machine to Computers for Africa in Scotland for inclusion with a shipment of desktops to be despatched in early April.

When you get back to the office, I’d be grateful if you could get a laptop prepared so that we can ship it to Scotland this month. I’ll probably pop over to your office and we can load the accounting software and ESET NOD 32 antivirus – I hate Norton and once it’s on a machine it’s the very devil to get rid of it! The ESET software is a donation and I love it.

Sorry all this is a bit wordy, but I thought you would appreciate the background and the pictures expand on it.