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July 23, 2021

AI in Education: Driving the success of the GDOE’s eAdmissions Portal

On the 25th of June 2020, the Gauteng Department of Education’s eAdmissions portal went live, and in August 2020, it was made available to the public. The portal allowed the parents of Gauteng to find places for their children for the 2021 school year online, providing them with the ability to choose their desired school without leaving the comfort of their homes.

The portal worked like a charm. Despite the flood of traffic from thousands of interested parents, the website remained operational throughout the registration window. There were some minor technical issues that cropped up shortly after the portal became available, but these were addressed immediately, and the system stayed up.

As a result, parents were able to submit their documentation and secure their children’s spots without the headache of previous years, where former versions of the Department’s admissions website could not cope with the workload or didn’t work as intended.

When the three-day window for 2021 applications closed, the eAdmissions portal had processed over 500,000 applications for approximately 250,000 learners. At its peak, it was processing over 1,000 applications a minute and supporting over 19,000 simultaneous users, making its success a hugely impressive technical achievement.

The companies behind the success of the eAdmissions portal are Boxfusion, a local software solution developer, Vodacom, which provided the  connectivity, and the solution has been hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.

Something Special

Now, there are several points that make the success of the eAdmissions portal so special. The first is that it was developed and deployed in a matter of weeks, something that is almost unheard-of in software development circles.

The second is that the eAdmissions portal made use of bleeding-edge technology: it was built on Microsoft’s Azure cloud and made use of Azure Cognitive Services “Computer Vision” to recognise and verify all submitted forms and ID documents. The cloud provided the stability needed to handle all of the traffic, while Azure Cognitive Services provided the image analysis services at the heart of the solution.

Third, because the solution was being built on capabilities provided from the cloud, Boxfusion was even able to put on a demonstration during the pitch phase.

Boxfusion Speaks

Julius Segole, Boxfusion’s Chief Technology Officer, had this to say about the eAdmission portal’s development.

“Through our strong partnership with Microsoft, we were able to make use of Azure Cognitive Services to help with the processing of the documents required for the eAdmissions application process.

“We used Cognitive Services for two very important functions: to detect fraudulent identity documents, and to confirm that forms had indeed been filled in properly in order to move them on to the next stage of processing.

“The beauty of image analysis is that it uses AI and Machine Learning and  we could therefore teach the solution how to recognise a legitimate ID document and identify complete forms with just a few lines of code. The more samples we fed it, the more accurate it became, eventually to the point where it could precisely identify any object we defined.

“These two functions helped to ensure that submitted documents were legitimate and contained all of the necessary information required for processing. This ensured much less frustration on the parents’ part and allowed us to maintain the integrity of the application process.”

Speed through SmartGov

Part of the reason Boxfusion was able to deploy the solution so quickly is due to having developed other public sector solutions, such as their SmartGov platform that provides process automation and engagement capabilities to the South African government.

“We recognised that there are common features and functions inside our SmartGov platform that can be used in the components of other government projects. In the case of eAdmissions, we simply needed to tweak and re-deploy them,” says Segole.

“As a result, the eAdmissions project had most of its capabilities in place within four weeks of receiving the go-ahead from government, and was ready to go live in 12.”

High Accuracy

Thanks to the accuracy of the system, the only human intervention that was ever needed in the process had to do with exceptions.

Any documentation flagged by the system as being incomplete would need to be looked at by the Admin personnel at each school, but the percentage of exceptions was so low that only one Admin was needed.

Small team, big value

The eAdmissions solution, which completely replaced the Gauteng Department of Education’s legacy system, was delivered by a highly experienced Boxfusion team that included: a Project Manager, a Software Architect, Developers, Business Analysts, Testers and Data Analysts. 

Overall, they achieved over 85% computer verification success which minimised the time needed for schools and district offices to do manual verifications.

AI Efficiency

The eAdmissions Portal has proven to be a major win for the Gauteng Department of Education. It successfully serviced more parents than ever while also reducing the frustration and complication that plagued the school placement application process in previous years.

Boxfusion’s company motto is “Rocketfuel for Government”, and that is exactly what they have delivered with the success of the eAdmissions Portal.