...The increasing trend in virtual connectivity has put pressure on the need to grow the computer skills base of citizens. Skills shortages and lack of access to computer facilities in the rural areas motivated the Cacadu District Municipality (CDM) to bring IT services closer to its residents. A multifaceted IT project - aptly referred to as â€œConnect with Cacaduâ€ (CwC) â€“ was launched by the District Municipality in 2008. Since then, the project has been installed and is operating successfully in 31 libraries throughout the Cacadu District. CwC involves introducing computer hardware and software at local libraries and other potential access points for use by community members. More than 200 computers have been provided in libraries in throughout the Cacadu District for use, free of charge, by communities. The programme features include registration and login facilities for users, and provides services such as email, internet, tutorials for various computer programmes, study guides that are aligned to primary and high school curricula, and access to online government services. The innovative system also integrates career choice awareness programmes, tertiary bridging assistance, adult life skills and lifestyle options as well as personal financial management. Municipal Manager Ted Pillay explains that this is a flagship project of the District Municipality for the past three years. Pillay says, â€œLibrarians in each library have received training on the various functions of the programme and can therefore provide assistance to, especially to first-time computer users.â€ â€œWe monitor the use of the programme to better understand the needs of users. Statistics reveal that there are currently 22 628 registered users of the system. The popularity of the service is indicative of the great need in rural communities. This is especially relevant for school children who need information to enable them to complete school projects to assist with their education" says Pillay. The most recent libraries to receive the system are Steytlerville, Willowmore and Rietbron in Baviaans Municipality, and Nieu Bethesda in Camdeboo Municipality. Following the installation in Nieu Bethesda, Councillor Knott-Craig of the Camdeboo Local Municipality sent a "big thank you" to Cacadu Municipality on behalf of Ward 7 for installing computers and linking them up to the internet. "The Ward 7 committee were all given training at the Horseshoe Library on February 28, and " a new world" has opened up for them" says Knott-Craig. "They are now able to write letters to me as chairperson of the Ward Committee about the needs of the community". The system is therefore also proving an added benefit as a communication tool for communities to convey their needs to their Ward Committees. At a recent launch of the CwC system in Hillview Library, Willowmore, Cacadu Mayor Khunjuzwa Kekana said "This project has proved very successful and fulfills a huge need in the rural areas where poorer communities would otherwise have no access to an internet service. Unemployment and poor economic opportunities have been identified as key causes of poverty and dependency on local, provincial and national government resources. It is hoped that through an information-sharing mechanism such as CwC, local people will be able to acquire skills and information that will assist them in improving their current and future standard of living and employment marketability through access to information".
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