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Digitalisation and its Impact on Public Healthcare and Education

by Blog Author Telkom on ‎26-11-2015 11:42 AM

 

As we undergo an evolution from a traditional telecommunications business to a converged ICT partner, Telkom Business is in the position of having both access and network, so we’re ideally positioned to expand our offering into IT services. Ike Kunene explains, “It’s almost second nature for us to get into that space. We’ve heavily invested in our network assets – we have over 147 000 km of fibre laid, our largest point of presence. Advances in mobile telephony created opportunities for us, enabling us to examine the next evolution of the market that we operate in.”

 

Telkom Business is leveraging our network as a platform to provide further services such as datacentre infrastructure, which boasts more than 9 700 square metres, cloud and world class unified communications. Because of the organisation’s scale and size, it is smoothly moving into the ICT infrastructure outsource space.

 

Kunene explains, “We partner with public sector to cut costs by outsourcing its IT infrastructure requirements to Telkom, allowing them the freedom to focus on their core business. If you consider government, its role is to provide services to citizens efficiently, on time and in a cost effective manner. But if we look at what government has done over the years, it has taken on the role of investing in IT infrastructure, entering the space of providing IT – which we believe is not core government business. The drawbacks are clear – the cost implications for public sector have been enormous.

 

“Telkom Business positions itself as a partner to government in the provision of ICT infrastructure services and digitalisation solutions. We find that in general, enterprises are moving away from owning ICT assets and choosing to focus on their core business environments,” he says.

 

Digitalise Where You Can

There’s been much media coverage around the use of IT to help improve access to education for all. Kunene says, “When people talk about digitalisation, it’s important to understand what it means as it’s often used interchangeably in many respects. For us, it’s the integration of digital technology into the everyday lives of our customers, such as schools and hospitals for instance.”

Digitalisation is one way of servicing the vast number of people that South Africa’s education and healthcare sectors have to reach, according to Kunene. “How do you get sufficient assets such as personnel and equipment to education and healthcare? That’s a huge challenge. Modern technology allows us to collect large amounts of data from all over and channel this data for efficient use. In education, this can entail making textbooks available on time and in remote areas at the push of a button. In healthcare it can mean sharing patient documentation between specialists remotely from any location in South Africa.

“We see ourselves as a national partner to provide this service,” says Kunene. “Telkom Business has the network and many points of presence across South Africa that allow us to conduct an intervention instantly.”

 

e-Education Is a Reality

e-Education is about far more than just having textbooks online, and as Telkom Business, we have four pillars that are essential to the delivery of e-education. First is the technology used by the end user, such as a tablet or interactive boards. Second is the learner management system where all the education content resides. Thirdly, the training and change management. Finally, and particularly relevant in the South African context is connectivity, without which the first three pillars cannot operate.

We have partnered with the Department of Education and the Department of Communications on one such project thus far, connecting some 1 650 schools in all provinces in South Africa.

Kunene says, “It’s no simple matter to implement a technology intervention at a school. You can’t just walk in and connect everybody, then leave. There’s a huge change management portion that needs to be implemented for both the educators and the children. To ensure adoption of e-learning, it’s critical that all parties be trained and are comfortable using this new approach to teaching and learning.”

 

Connected Healthcare

Telkom Business is playing an essential role in the drive to digitalise healthcare in South Africa. “If you look at the National Development Plan, it underlines the importance of access to healthcare as a key focus area,” says Kunene. “Telkom Business is working with the Department of Health to develop a comprehensive plan to connect hospitals and clinics and to create a referral system. This would enable healthcare workers in remote areas to send patient information – including x-rays or scans – to a referring doctor, who will be able to advise on further treatment for that patient.”

One such success story is in the area of radiology, where specialists are provided with tablets that have access to a central database where x-rays are stored. A radiologist located anywhere in South Africa can log in to that database, examine x-rays and record their comments for the consulting physician to see.

 

Beyond Connectivity

The cost of rolling out broadband is very high, and South Africa has some extremely remote areas that remain unconnected today. Telkom Business counters this challenge to some extent by having a mixed technology strategy. Kunene explains, “If we don’t have fibre in the area, we use an alternative technology connection; in some cases even satellite and LTE technology is a consideration. Our partnership with government is more than just about return on revenue – it’s about a societal and economic agenda, ensuring that Telkom Business plays its role in building South Africa as a digital economy and society.”

 

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