Microsoft and South Africa Focus on Sustainable Community Development : Partners in Learning
Information Technology (IT) is disruptive. Largely for the better, IT has disrupted the way we travel, communicate, conduct business, produce, socialise and manage our homes and lives. This disruptive ability has the potential to reduce our dependence on dirty energy and make society cleaner, more efficient and powered renewably. But as we applaud the positive, visible impacts and measurable, game-changing potential of IT, we also need to pay attention to whats behind the curtain.
Microsoft and South Africa Focus ...
Microsoft and South Africa
Focus on Sustainable Community Development:
Partners in Learning
Reza Bardien, Microsoft
“Our vision and mission is that we must serve and deliver tangible
results for the communities in which Lonmin operates. Our strong
partnerships with entities such as Microsoft help us liberate the
potential of the individual within the communities we serve.”
Kgomotso Tshaka, President,
Lonmin Community Development
Lonmin is one of South Africa’s largest platinum producers. Operating in the Marikana region of the
Northwest Province – about an hour from Johannesburg – the company draws its labour pool from
29 local schools.
As mining has become increasingly sophisticated, workers need high levels of digital literacy to
be effective. The local school system was unable to provide ICT skills to its students.
Lonmin partnered with Microsoft Partners in Learning to gain a framework for giving students the
ICT skills they needed.
• Created 25 computer labs within six months
• Will reach 15,000 students through 500 teachers
• Used local resources for sustainable community development
• Gained a model that can be used throughout the country
Platinum mining company Lonmin operates in the Marikana region of South Africa, a
historically economically depressed area. The company teamed up with Microsoft to train teachers
how to incorporate information and communications technology (ICT) skills in the classroom, a
move that has improved both the mining business and the local economy.
When many people think about South Africa, they think about apartheid. But what they do
not realize is that for many years, the government has been actively promoting a wide range of
broad-based black economic empowerment programs to address inequalities. Coupled with
empowerment programs is a growing movement for private sector companies to give back to the
communities in which they operate. South Africa has discovered that this thrust benefits not only
the communities, but the companies as well. One key example is Lonmin, the world’s third-largest
Lonmin operates in the Marikana region of the ‘platinum belt’ of South Africa, an area that
has long relied on cheap local labor. But as mining has become an increasingly high-tech
business, it requires a correspondingly high level of digital literacy. Lonmin found that it had to train
workers on technology after they graduated from one of the region’s 29 schools. The training was
time-consuming and hindered business success. The company already recognized that training
students in digital literacy was the key to overcoming this challenge. Even though many South
African schools already had ICT initiatives in place, digital literacy remained low. The problem was
that merely having PCs in schools was not giving students the technical skills they needed.
3. The Solution
Lonmin Community Development Trust, the sustainable community development arm of the
company, contacted Microsoft® Partners in Learning to help broaden the scope of ICT training in
schools. ‘Our vision and mission is that we must serve and deliver tangible results for the
communities in which Lonmin operates’, says Kgomotso Tshaka, President, Lonmin Community
Development Trust. ‘Our strong partnerships with entities such as Microsoft help us liberate the
potential of the individual within the communities we serve’.
To start, Microsoft launched a pilot program to train 24 teachers in one school according to
Partners in Learning Teacher Training methodologies. ‘For the first few months, we focused on
thought leadership’, explains Reza Bardien, Academic Program Manager, Microsoft South Africa.
‘We needed to shift the focus away from pure technology and toward developing ICT programs
that teachers could use on a daily basis’.
This shift in thinking paid off. As a result of the pilot program’s success, Lonmin Community
Development Trust decided to fund the training of the 28 remaining schools. ‘Having the support of
someone like Microsoft gives teachers and learners unlimited access to information they never
dreamed of’, says Kitty Scott, Development Manager for Education, Lonmin Community
During the process, Microsoft and Lonmin Community Development Trust also addressed
the need for IT infrastructure. Microsoft provided software, while Lonmin Community Development
Trust equipped 25 computer labs with 25 to 30 refurbished PCs per lab. In addition, a local
Microsoft partner was brought in for implementation. This partner is also a black South African
empowerment partner, thus contributing even more to community development.
The South African Department of Education has also become involved, a move that has
raised the project’s visibility throughout the country and encouraged other companies and districts
to adopt a similar approach.
All stakeholders are benefiting from the partnership between Lonmin and Microsoft.
Students are gaining valuable skills that enhance their employment viability and earning power.
Teachers are getting the resources they need to improve the quality of teaching and learning,
using ICT programs. And Lonmin is getting a trained workforce. Ultimately, this program will reach
all students in the Marikana region, all of whom will graduate with competent levels of digital
literacy. To put it in perspective, consider the following: this program will reach 15,000 students
through 500 teachers.
The ramifications of these numbers are staggering. The platinum belt has historically
provided cheap, unskilled labor, leading to a stagnant economy. But as people graduate from
school with higher levels of technology skills, they have more employment opportunities and
greater earning power. In turn, the community as a whole benefits. In addition, Lonmin Community