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Theft scuppers Gauteng Online


By Audra Mahlong, senior journalist
Johannesburg, 9 Feb 2009

• Read in this story

• Deaf ears
• Troubled past

Gauteng Online, an initiative by the Gauteng government to build a provincial computer

network, is being targeted by crime syndicates – but government continues to deny there is a

Shaun van Coller, director of IT Crimes, speculates that, since 2007, syndicates have
successfully stolen computers from more than 240 schools in the province. This theft hits the
province heavily, as it costs government an average of R260 000 for the workstations for
each lab.

The initiative, administered by the Gauteng Shared Services Centre (GSSC), aims to roll out
25-seat computer labs with PCs and full Internet connectivity, printers, multimedia units,
gateway servers and satellite dishes to the 2 500 public schools in the province.

In September 2008, there was a surge in computer theft in the province and, in January,
newspaper reports stated 200 schools had been affected by crime syndicates. However, the
GSSC denies the theft is so extensive.

Deaf ears

IT crimes is a private company that developed the National Independent Computer Serial
Number Database as part of its programme to fight computer theft.

Van Coller says computer theft has been successfully combated in schools in the Western
Cape, but that the Gauteng government has repeatedly refused any attempts to help.

“I have been engaging with the province for about two years now and still have no success in
getting them to implement this solution.”

He adds that Western Cape schools, which are registered on IT Crimes' system, had a zero
incidence of theft over the school holidays and that only six cases of theft were reported in
one year.

“The problem is that when these thefts happen, the police ask for serial numbers and, with no
record of those serial numbers anywhere, it's impossible to recover the stolen goods and track
what is happening,” says Van Coller.

He adds that he has seen an increase in provinces that don't have a system of identification
and tracking for their computers.
Van Coller claims there is a network of syndicates. He says individuals have specialised roles
within the syndicate, making it harder to track activities.

“There's the guy who steals the computers and the one who breaks it down and strips it into
components, and then there's the one who sells it off to the marketplace,” he explains.

Troubled past

Unveiled in 2001 by former premier Mbhazima Shilowa, the project was allocated a budget
of R500 million over a three-year period, with roll-outs expected at 1 100 of Gauteng's 2 500
public schools by 2004.

In 2005, an additional R100 million was allocated to fast-track the project and the deadline
for its completion was first extended to 2006, then to 2007. In the process, the project also
migrated from the Department of Education, to the GSSC, with about 1 000 schools equipped
with computer labs.

This migration was accompanied by the announcement of a R2 billion tender for the project.
When the responsibility for the implementation of Gauteng Online was transferred to the
GSSC, Internet service was provided by Sentech via satellite.

Once the contract with Sentech expired, iBurst was appointed as the new Internet service
provider by GSSC to provide a wireless Internet solution which offers greater bandwidth, but
many schools suffered from insufficient coverage. The signal was weak or non-existent in
many schools.

The GSSC then controversially awarded the R2 million contract to SMMT Online, which has
a hybrid solution – a combination of satellite and wireless.

The GSSC had not replied to queries by the time of publication.

King kong said:

Rats and money....

They "syndicate" which was appointed chose the wrong technology. They were warned and
KHANYA is a shining example of how ICT's should be used and managed. There is a rat
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February 11, 2009 Votes: +0

ebudae said:

Another IT fumble
Once again it is clear that the government's IT plans are a shambles. Who chooses IBurst to
provide internet access, especially for such a large number of users. A brief search on any
online forum will reveal great displeasure with iBursts service.

I understand there is probably great difficulty in balancing BEE requirements with

technology requirements. But sadly, not all technologies are created equal. BEE has to take
a back seat when we are talking about the best technology for the job.
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February 09, 2009 Votes: +0