Field Stories

Cloud computing: computer labs used for 2.5 million students in 2500 schools

The South African government has a broad vision based on Batho Pele (“People First”) principles to bring transparency and efficiency to government through the adoption of information and communication technology (ICT). Gauteng is the most populous province in South Africa with 9.5 million residents and home to Johannesburg, the economic capital of South Africa. A historic cloud computing initiative provides ICT and Internet access using Wyse software and highly reliable, low energy and secure Wyse thin clients.

The Gauteng Online initiative fulfils the government’s ICT vision for students by building a province-wide school computing network. Under the direction of the Gauteng Shared Service Centre (GSSC), every public school is being equipped with a computer laboratory with twenty-five workstations. Students will benefit from web and e-mail access and teachers and administrators will have access to the web for the purposes of curriculum delivery and school administration.

Mr Paul Mashatile, Premier of Gauteng Province, explains: “By 2013, each of our 2.5 million students in Gauteng’s 2500 schools will have access to a computer laboratory. The information and knowledge that our students will now be exposed to will make a significant difference in their lives, help them to develop the skills and knowledge they need to achieve their own personal goals, and to succeed in the global community.”

[callout title=Vision]“I am extremely proud to have had a hand in building a bridge between the information that the Internet has to offer and the citizens of Gauteng, as well as to have had the opportunity to work alongside SMMT Online and Wyse to see this vision become a reality.”

Mr Paul Mashatile, Premier of Gauteng Province[/callout]

Each school will be equipped with a computer laboratory featuring Wyse thin client terminals powered by Wyse’s powerful thin-computing software solution, Wyse WSM. In addition, the laboratories will also include Internet connectivity, printers and servers. Since mid 2009, approximately 1600 schools have already had their computer laboratory installed or are nearing completion, with more than 70,000 Wyse thin clients accessible to students, teachers, administrators and community members.

With headquarters just outside Johannesburg, SMMT Online is the ICT service provider overseeing and implementing the project. SMMT Online was awarded the Gauteng Online project in early 2008, including the construction and management of the required satellite and wireless infrastructure. From their central control centre, support staff receive live information on the status of the computer labs. “This is a giant step forward for the citizens of Gauteng,” says James Ainslie of SMMT Online. “This project is delivering a high-speed Internet infrastructure to townships that have never before had such access. In the process we are helping to literally double the number of South African citizens that have Internet access.”

Reliable and easier to manage

The Wyse thin computing solution was chosen because of the unique benefits of thin clients. Unlike personal computers, which require a great deal of maintenance and upkeep, thin computing removes all local data storage and administration and centralises it in a single location. The server hosts copies of the software required by all users. Rather than maintaining twenty-five separate computers, there is only one version of each application to administer. Thin clients are therefore easier to maintain, support and manage, and because thin clients have no moving parts, they are at least five times more reliable than PCs.

With the Wyse WSM solution, each user receives a pristine computing experience every time they sit down in front of the Wyse thin client. This is particularly important, as the thin clients are shared among many individuals – students, teachers, school administrators and community members. In thin computing environments, no files or applications are stored locally, so every user is immediately greeted with a clean screen, and no legacy issues from the prior user.

“We found PCs to be part of the problem, rather than part of the solution,” added Ainslie. “Between issues around management, total cost of ownership, energy consumption and security, PCs were simply inappropriate for the educational environment and technology infrastructure we are building in Gauteng. We selected Wyse thin clients because of their overall quality and reputation, and also because of their ability to deliver a superior end-user experience around multimedia-intensive applications such as Google Earth.”

Low energy consumption was a major benefit of this solution. Each thin client uses only thirteen watts of power compared to a typical PC that would use between seventy and a hundred and fifty watts. The low energy impact of the Wyse clients is particularly valuable in some of Gauteng’s more remote districts where power supplies are limited and can be unreliable.


Unlike traditional desktop PCs, thin clients have no local storage and contain no sensitive information. They cannot store viruses and many of the security issues facing ICT administrators are removed. The thin clients also have no value once removed from the computer lab, rendering them useless if stolen because they have no resale value. With applications, administration and management centrally handled in a cloud infrastructure, thin computing provides both a resilient and secure infrastructure for the schools.

A resource for students and the community

Students now benefit from access to applications such as the Microsoft Office suite, as well as multimedia applications such as Encarta, Adobe Flash and Google Earth. They also benefit from e-mail and Internet access.

Schools are very often a central meeting place for the surrounding community. All 2500 computer labs will be open and available not only to students and teachers, but also to members of the surrounding community as well. Premier Mashatile: “I am extremely proud to have had a hand in building a bridge between the information that the Internet has to offer and the citizens of Gauteng, as well as to have had the opportunity to work alongside SMMT Online and Wyse to see this vision become a reality.”

Wyse WSM

The Wyse thin clients are powered by the company’s thin-computing software solution, Wyse WSM. WSM delivers the operating system and applications on demand to provide a full functionality PC platform but with the much simpler administration and management of a thin client. Wyse WSM packages and delivers the Microsoft Windows operating system and necessary applications independently to a stateless thin client. The thin client then runs the operating system and applications locally, but all of the files and applications reside on the server, where they are much easier to back up, manage and maintain.

© Wyse Technology Inc.

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