I must thank the
Vice-Chancellor and Rector of the University, Professor Charles Dlamini, for
having asked me to participate in this important event. The launch of the
Hewlett Packard Computer Centre at our University represents a further
milestone in the growth of our institution. I must wholeheartedly thank the
Hewlett Packard Company for this important donation. It is essential that our
University strengthens its information technology backbone, and makes
information technology more readily available to our students.
I wish that I could proudly
state that by opening up this important computer centre our University is
making available the technology of the future for its students. Even though
the equipment supplied to us is undoubtedly state of the art, we must accept
that instead of moving into the future, we are now beginning to catch up with
the past. Our University must move further and faster in developing greater
information technology to assist the training of its students. Today, the
world of knowledge is no longer contained exclusively in libraries located in
certain prestigious universities, but is becoming a world in itself which
exists and constantly expands in cyberspace.
In today's world, successful
learning requires having one's feet on the ground, as it always has, but also
the ability to reach into cyberspace. Computers have become the link between
individuals and the world of knowledge, with immediate access. Computers are
the passports to be carried by citizens of the global village of knowledge and
information. By giving our students access to computers, our University is
providing them with a passport which identifies them as full rights citizens
of the global village in cyberspace.
I believe that we must rely on
constant technological improvements to bridge the enormous gaps which still
exist between rich and poor. The fast development of technology has great
potential for speeding up the pace of social justice. Information technology
enables a young person born in a remote rural area to access the same
information and share the same horizons as a child born in an affluent
environment of an urban area. I hope that this computer centre will offer our
students the same advantages that students have across the world.
I believe that we must rely on constant
technological improvements to bridge the enormous gaps which still exist
between rich and poor. The fast development of technology has great potential
for speeding up the pace of social justice. Information technology enables a
young person born in a remote rural area to access the same information and
share the same horizons as a child born in an affluent environment of an urban
area. I hope that this computer centre will offer our students the same
advantages that students have across the world.
In the past years I have advocated in
Parliament that the whole of South Africa should make massive investments in
information technology and new emerging technologies. In fact, technology
remains the fastest and most secure way to bring about the human upliftment of
our population and the accelerated growth of our economy. I have always been
impressed by how the Taiwanese people had the wisdom to stake their future on
technological investments. They started with a population with a low level of
skills and education which was constrained by the contingencies of war, on a
relatively small island with no natural resources. They invested in the most
important of all resources which is the human brain and the ingenuity of
mankind. They dedicated themselves to social discipline and embarked on a long
journey supported by a long-term vision of development. They leapfrogged over
the technology of the time to invest in the emerging technology of the future.
Instead of focusing primarily on the steel and other industries, they turned
South Africa must operate on the same basis. We
need to develop a long-term plan which can educate our people to master
present and future levels of technology. We have a unique opportunity to begin
directing our efforts towards the implementation of such a long-term plan. In
fact, government will be promoting one of the most massive programmes ever
undertaken on our continent. From this year, 0.5% will be lifted from the
salaries of each and every South African which amount will be increased to 1%
next year. This money will be used to train people. However, we must ask
ourselves what we are training people for and how we must train them. Training
people will take between five and ten years and, therefore, they should be
trained not for today's world, but for the world of tomorrow which we wish to
create through our efforts.
I have indicated in Parliament that I believe
people should also be trained in the use of computers and, when possible,
should be trained by computers themselves. Nowadays, computers can train
people as well as people used to do, if not better. I was pleasantly surprised
to see that in South Africa we even have a virtual university in which
students may enroll to receive a fully fledged university degree. Each student
is monitored through each stage of his or her education and is tested before
and after each chapter of his or her curriculum. Specific programmes are
tailored for each student to remedy his or her weaknesses and to reinforce
information and knowledge where and when needed. All this is done, not by
people, but by an online internet service. What is most fantastic and
extraordinary, is that we are just at the beginning of this new world of
training and education.
It is obvious that as the world develops, one
of the most important divides between people and nations will be that which
separates those who are technologically clued up from those who are
technologically clueless. Today, we are making a commitment to ensuring that
our students can stand tall amongst those who will be technologically clued
up. It is important that all role players in our society, as well as
internationally, make a personal contribution to ensuring that our future
generations can keep up with the pace of technology. In the world of tomorrow,
the lost generations will be those which have received training and education
which does not match the technological requirements of the day.
In fact, the flip side of fast technological
improvements is the fact that large segments of the population are left
behind. For this reason in South Africa, as in the rest of the world,
government will be forced to expend significant resources in trying to bring
back on a technological par those who have been left behind. The
responsibility of raising the technological platform of each country cannot
rely on the efforts of government alone. All role players within society must
make a contribution.
Today, Hewlett Packard is giving an example by
donating this computer equipment to our University. Their contribution is of
enormous importance. As a computer company, Hewlett Packard may be in a better
position than other companies to make such a contribution, for they can
receive fiscal advantages and broaden their markets. However, I believe that
government should create similar incentives for each and every corporation to
make contributions towards the raising of the technological platform of our
country. It is essential that large corporations donate technology and work
beyond the confines of their workplace to improve on the technological
infrastructure of communities.
Universities remain one of the most important
centres of a necessary technological revolution. It is essential that people
in all fields become more technologically aware and that universities shape
technologically astute professionals, irrespective of their future field of
activities. People of my generation have been left behind and now experience
difficulties even in operating household equipment such as a VCR, which is now
directly connected to numbers coding each of the programmes shown on TV so
that one can preset to record them.
Because the access to technology is unequally
distributed in our country, it is the responsibility of universities to bridge
this gap at least in respect of their own students. Our University is surely
not doing enough, but is moving fast towards trying to do more in this
respect. We need to receive more assistance and encourage more donors.
Donations in technology made to a university are indeed a long-term investment
in the future of our country and will translate into tangible economic growth.
Our University must also become pro-active in
soliciting donations and encouraging businesses to be more present in the life
of our University. Many businesses have products which are relevant to the
future lives of our students, both as professionals and as citizens of our
country. We should encourage such businesses to make their products available
to our students while they are with us, so that they can appreciate them also
after their graduation. We must especially focus on technologically demanding
As students confront a new world of
information, they will need to learn how to appreciate this blessing and avoid
its evils. At times there is the erroneous perception that technological
training should reduce critical capacity because it moves people from the
world of relative concepts into that of objective certainties. It is the duty
of centres of learning, such as our University, to stress that even in a
technological world, the most important function remains that exercised by the
human brain and its critical capacity. No knowledge should ever be received as
a certainty. Even technological knowledge is constantly challenged. The
history of mankind proves that not one single theory or piece of knowledge is
an absolute. Each of them has been requalified and transformed by further
knowledge acquired through critical thinking on the existing knowledge.
Critical thinking is especially needed when
dealing with an enhanced world of information which tends to level down
differences amongst the sources of the knowledge and the criteria for the
verification of their truth. Those who access the internet will find an
endless amount of information on any given topic. It will all look equally
credible and equally impressive. However, students must learn how to
differentiate between what is true and what is not, what is reliable and what
is not, and what is credible and what is not.
Furthermore, as the length and breadth of
information increases, the issue of its relevance becomes critical. Students
must learn to understand and pursue relevance so as to narrow the scope of
their interest. This consideration proves that the question of the method
remains as relevant now as it was 600 years ago when this question planted the
first seeds of the human renaissance and the development of the scientifically
based world in which we now live.
We approach a rapidly changing world with the
spirit and the wonder of those who first laid down the pilasters of a new
world order based on knowledge, critical thinking and the pursuit of
individual and collective happiness. Knowledge, technology and information are
to serve the cause of human happiness and growth. The renaissance began half a
millennium ago when the most revolutionary statement was made that each
individual, the single man, is the measure of everything. By carrying this
statement forward into the third millennium, we shall ensure that machines and
technology serve mankind and not vice versa.
Therefore, I invite our students to learn about
machines and to use machines to learn about themselves. As was written in the
most important source of all knowledge to the ancient world, the Temple of the
Oracle of Delphi, the source of all knowledge is in "know thyself".
I invite our students to ponder on this eternal truth because in the end, we
all stand before our own image reflected in the mirror of life, and every step
we take to grow and become more aware of the world surrounding us, should lead
us to gain a better understanding of ourselves.
Today, the Hewlett Packard Company and our
students have begun a journey in the most exciting of all territories, which
is that of human growth and upliftment through knowledge. We thank the Hewlett
Packard Company for their generosity and we invite them to continue this
journey with us for many years to come. A partnership has been forged which
shall continue. Our students and our University take pride in having the
sponsorship of Hewlett Packard and wish to continue to take pride in having
this generous company as our partner in development and human upliftment. The
communities to which our students belong and to which they will return, are
going to be equally appreciative of what Hewlett Packard has done for their
growth and upliftment.
Our University needs more and greater support
and we hope that the example of Hewlett Packard will be followed by other
corporations. We also hope that Hewlett Packard can be conducive to opening
more of such doors for us within the corporate world, both in South Africa as
well as in the United States where Hewlett Packard's parent company is based.
Our University is very thankful for all the help it has received and wishes to
all its donors the success which their generosity has rightfully earned them.
With these few words, I wish to state once
again that it has been a pleasure and a privilege for me as Chancellor of this
University to participate in the official opening of the Hewlett Packard
Computer Centre at our University.