The Eastern Cape is notoriously known for having South Africa’s worst performing matric results, as well as an under-resourced and understaffed education system. Data gathering and analysis is one way the government tries to review options of tackling these issues, but mountains of paperwork on its own make it quite a tedious task which can slow down corrective action.

To assist government in streamlining its data gathering structures and provide an easy way for education district and circuit managers to access the statistical information on schools in the Eastern Cape, auditing firm Deloitte South Africa, began piloting an online portal that collates all the data onto one, easily accessible and readable platform.

The firm was commissioned by the Eastern Cape Department of Basic Education to begin the data gathering project last year. Previously, officials had to travel to a specific education department office to access the data for analysis that would assist them in making decisions and implementing solutions.

Additional issues with the traditional system include lost paperwork and the time consuming task of sifting through data to find what one needs.

Data for this project is sourced from monthly and annual surveys conducted by government across the province and is updated regularly.

The interactive site breaks data down for both primary and high schools into multiple categories and sub-categories such as number of schools, number of learners by gender, race and age, number of learners and teachers in a particular area and schools, right down to data for each individual school and other important details.

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The portal is accessible to officials at any time of the day and they can use the search function to navigate through the data, find what they’re looking for and see which problems particular schools and areas are facing.

“The main aim here is to gather insights that would help the department make the biggest difference in a shorter space of time,” Deloitte’s Aidan Norton told htxt.africa at the Gauteng eGovernance and ICT Summit this week where the firm was exhibiting some of its governmental initiatives. “We want the department to use this to respond swiftly to issues and in the right manner.”

“So for example they can see that there are a number of eleven-year-old children enrolled in grade one. From this, the department is able to pick up that this is a problem that needs to be addressed and focus their resources where they’re needed most,” Norton adds.

The digital data portal’s first phase began and was rounded up in 2014 and phase two is currently under way in the Eastern Cape, while phase three will begin in 2016.

“We would love to get involved in other provinces and that’s where we’re moving to to get this to become a national solution that the national education department can implement. We would love to see the entire data gathering process from the ground going completely digital,” Norton adds.

It’s still too early to tell how impactful the project’s effects over the last two years are, but Deloitte does hope to see its intended purpose gradually being realised and making a positive impact.

“We joined this project because we believe having this kind of data at the department’s fingertips in real-time can assist them in providing better education services,” Norton concludes.

[Image – CC Wikimedia Commons]