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Lenovo launches innovation centre at Durban U

The Durban University of Technology (DUT) and Lenovo are launching a Lenovo Innovation Centre, a walk-in centre aimed at increasing the university’s interactivity with the latest technology.

The ‘walk-in intranet’ will be provided to DUT free of charge. It forms part of Lenovo’s efforts to support education and e-learning in the country while increasing the University’s interactivity with technology.

Conceptualised roughly nine months ago, the Innovation Centre is aligned to Student Centredness, one of the two major threads in the University’s strategic plan. The Innovation Centre is also aligned to the University’s online learning trajectory, which aims to make 50 percent of its programmes available on an e-learning platform by January 2015.

“Students are our next generation of leaders yet many of them don’t have access to the latest technologies,” says Graham Braum, Lenovo Africa General Manager. “Many universities in South Africa, especially those considered previously disadvantaged, operate on outdated technology. They don’t have computer labs where students can look, feel and touch technology.”

Recent research revealed that, out of South Africa’s 413 067 teachers, only 132 884 had been trained in basic computer skills and ICT equipment by 2011. South Africa’s readiness for e-learning is still hampered by a lack of skills and infrastructure even though schools and teachers remain optimistic and willing to bring ICT into the classrooms.

Technology in universities has always been a grey area due to limited budgets and excessive requirements. Lenovo aims to create IT abundance so that when students enter the workplace, they are familiar with technology and, more importantly, PC Plus technology, which supports all their computing requirements, whether at work or play.

“Lenovo feels that technology should be part of our everyday lives, and not be seen as a ‘nice to have’. Technology is what will take this country forward and Lenovo would like to enable our future leaders. Lenovo has first-hand experience working with graduates from universities across South Africa, who joined us for our 2014 intern programme. One thing that stood out was the students’ limited exposure to technology,” says Braum. “So how do we enable and empower our future leaders? We create an environment with IT abundance.”

Dilip Jeena, Client Services Manager within DUT’s IT Support Services Department, said the Innovation Centre has been provided to the University at zero cost. Lenovo and its technology partner, Intel, supplied the DUT Innovation Centre with a multitude of devices, including ThinkPads, ThinkCentre All in Ones, IdeaPads, and multi-mode laptops and tablets. All the devices will be linked to a Student Technology Programme, through which students can acquire tablets, laptops and other mobile devices at a discounted price.

“This Innovation Centre will assist students and staff in familiarising themselves in the use of the latest technology to gain access to various online content that is being developed on the e-learning platform. This would also educate them in the use of these various products and help them when seeking employment. With the rapid evolution of technology and the limited finances available to higher education institutions, the sponsorship of this Innovation Centre is well received.”

The DUT Innovation Centre is the first of its kind and Lenovo hopes to roll out additional Innovation Centres at other universities across the country.

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