If you have a “feel good” or inspiring story about an achievement of your centre or foundation or of one of your trainers, or students, we would like to here from you. The best stories will be featured on our blog where others can be inspired by them. Send your stories to admin[at]courseware4u.co.za.
Healthy competition between suppliers is the backbone of a sound economy. That is why we have a Competition Commission, a statutory body constituted in terms of the Competition Act , No. 89 of 1998. Its purpose is to promote and maintain competition in South Africa in order to, among others, provide consumers with competitive prices and product choices. When restrictive business practices, anti-competitive conduct and misuse of power is however used to block new competition, it becomes unacceptable business practice which should have no place in a free market economy.
Courseware 4U – a case study
Courseware4U as a new provider of computer training courseware, is an interesting case study of a new business that is the victim of, intended or unintended, anti-competitive conduct.
Towards the end of 2018 we identified a gap in the availability of customizable courseware in South Africa. Up to that point, most courseware were sold either as printed material or as e-books. None of these were however customizable. We felt there was a specific need for training material which was truly customizable in all respects and which would be easy for clients to edit, adjust and re-brand as their own without having to rely on the original supplier to do it at extra cost.
In studying the market we found that the ICDL training centres, schools and other training centres were the most obvious market we should concentrate on. ICDL South Africa serves not only South Africa but also Namibia and Botswana. According to the website of the ICDL Foundation, a not-for-profit entity, more than 14 million people have to date engaged with the ICDL programme, in over 100 countries, through their network of over 24,000 ICDL Accredited Test Centres (ATCs). It therefore made good sense for Coursware4U to aim at this market for their products.
The syllabi used by ICDL training centres are freely available for download from the ECDL website. Courseware4U therefore downloaded the latest syllabi (syllabus 6) and aligned our courseware using Microsoft Office 2016 (365) to make it as current as possible. Marianne Lubbe, who has more than 15 years’ experience in compiling courseware that complies with the requirements of ECDL/ICDL, was contracted and later appointed to write our courseware.
In March of this year (2019) we “opened up shop” with our first batch of customizable manuals. Our material was well received but we were caught by surprise when ICDL South Africa contacted us complaining: “It has been brought to our attention that your company carries an illegal use of the ECDL Trade Mark reference in your advertisements on your website. Kindly note that by referencing the term ECDL/ICDL, this infringes upon the trademark. Only ICDL/ECDL accredited Centres or Courseware Providers may make reference to the trademark. Please therefore remove all references to the ECDL/ICDL in your materials (if applicable) and on your website.”
We were baffled by their hostile attitude. We scrutinized our website, but could not find any claim, or even hint, that we were an ECDL/ICDL accredited centre, test centre, or accredited Courseware supplier or where we used their logo or trademark in an illegal way (or any way at all!) as alleged. We informed ICDL accordingly.
After some email exchanges between ourselves and ICDL recently, we decided to apply to have our courseware evaluated/accredited by ICDL South Africa, but our application was turned down with a very curt reply: ”Kindly note that ICDL SA will not be partnering with any additional Courseware providers currently.” No reason given. We were told that there were four accredited suppliers of courseware of which one was ICDL themselves and one is an Italian based company. When we had a look at the websites of the two remaining suppliers, we found a claim on the website of one of these ICDL partners, that they were the “Sole Courseware Provider for ICDL”. When we approached ICDL about this, the claim was promptly removed (which doesn’t mean that the claim isn’t true!).This begs the question: Why would ICDL refuse to evaluate/accredit our courseware? Could it be a form of anti-competitive conduct? Is there perhaps some form of collusion (tacit or otherwise) between ICDL and one or more of their partners to prevent a new supplier, with lower and more competitive prices, to enter the market?
We do not say that this is the case because we have no collaborative evidence for such a claim or assumption, but cannot help but wonder what lies behind, what could only be described as hostile attitude of ICDL, towards Courseware4U.
By “blocking” Courseware4U from becoming an accredited courseware supplier, ICDL is in fact forcing centers and students, especially those from needy communities, to buy more expensive (and perhaps less current) courseware. We are doing quite well without the “blessing” of ICDL, but this anti-competitive conduct from a supposedly not-for-profit organisation, with the negative impact on needy students, really pisses me off!
We only recently came across the amazing and inspiring story of Richard Appiah Akoto, from Kumasi in Ghana, who draws meticulous illustrations of diagrams on his blackboard to teach his students ICT. The school has not had computers since 2011, despite learners needing to pass an information and communications technology (ICT) exam before entering high school.
Rebecca Enonchong who became aware of Mr. Akoto and the plight of his school, posted the following on Twitter: “Hey @MicrosoftAfrica, he’s teaching MS Word on a blackboard. Surely you can get him some proper resources.”
Microsoft Africa immediately responded and wrote: “Supporting teachers to enable digital transformation in education is at the core of what we do. We will equip Owura Kwadwo with a device from one of our partners. They followed this up saying that at Microsoft they believe that educators, like Mr. Akoto, are heroes, pushing the boundaries of what is possible to transform learning, and making a direct impact on the experiences and lifelong skills of their students.
We at Courseware4U were likewise impressed with Mr. Akoto’s dedication to his task as teacher and his enterprising spirit, and we have now donated a complete set of our Bundle 1 Plus, which is the equivalent of the ICDL Base Plus, to his school. The bundle includes Intermediate level Operating Systems, Word Processing, Spreadsheets, Internet and Email, Databases and Presentation. As all our manuals are fully customizable and print on demand ready, Mr. Akoto can now customize and rebrand all these manuals as his own.