Rural Campuses Connection Project close-out

The Rural Campuses Connection Project (RCCP) aimed to improve access to ICTs from South Africa's rural campuses
Rural Campuses Connection Project close-out
Photo credit: Mateboho Green

The second part of the Rural Campuses Connection Project (RCCP II), implemented by TENET over six phases from March 2015, was completed towards the end of 2019. Both parts of the Rural Campuses Connection Project (RCCP I and RCCP II) were rolled out to address the backlog in high speed connectivity at most of South Africa’s higher education institutions, particularly those with rural campuses.

Research infrastructure, including access to research cyber-infrastructures, is increasingly becoming a huge cost item for universities. As the world builds ever bigger scientific instruments to answer the fundamental questions of the universe, so there is increasing demand for high-speed, dedicated network links to connect these instruments to the researchers who use them. Although the initial grant from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) – then the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) – to Higher Education South Africa (HESA) for the Rural Campuses Connection Project Phase I (RCCP I) addressed the backlog of some rural campuses, the demand for high speed connectivity far outstrips available capacity.

RCCP Phase 1

The South African National Research Network (SANReN), operated by TENET, aims to ensure successful participation of the South African research and education sector in global research and innovation. Universities are an important part of this sector. The SANReN national backbone comprises high bandwidth links that connect the major cities, and within several of these cities, universities are connected to metro rings.

During the first phase of the RCCP, additional network rings were built to connect 19 rural and peri-urban university campuses to the SANReN national backbone in order to provide them with the same access to ICT as the urban universities in major cities, thus creating new opportunities for teaching and learning, research and innovation, and community engagement at rural university campuses. This phase of the project was completed in December 2014.

RCCP Phase 2

In the White Paper for Post-School Education and Training Section 7.4, titled “Equitable access to appropriate technology”, the DHET emphasised that: “Information and communication technology is increasingly becoming a critical ingredient for meaningful participation in a globalised world. It is also an indispensable infrastructural component for effective education provision, and is central to the notion of opening learning opportunities in the post-schooling sector… Currently, ICT access is extremely uneven, making it impossible for education and other providers to fully harness the potential of using ICT to support teaching and learning, particularly at a distance.”

As part of the DHET’s continued commitment to improve ICT infrastructure across the post-school education and training system, the DHET allocated a further grant to Universities South Africa (previously HESA) for Phase II of the RCCP, which ran for 4 years from March 2015 until the end of 2019.

The next phase in the provision of high-speed connectivity to educational institutions is a roll-out to 50 TVET colleges nationwide. Read more about this project here.