31 July 2015
Free wifi is being rolled out at taxi ranks in Western Cape as an expansion of a project to grow internet access throughout South Africa.
Project Isizwe today announced that commuters at Gugulethu and Khayelitsha taxi ranks would be given access to free wifi, as the organisation forges ahead with its programme to connect mainly disadvantaged areas with the internet.
It has been driving internet access through wifi in the city of Tshwane as part its digital inclusion programme, with 514 wifi zones out of 633 situated at educational institutions. There is also a pilot free wifi zone in Eastern Cape at the Mount Frere and Lusikisiki campuses of Ingwe Technical Vocational Education and Training College.
“Living without information is unthinkable and we believe that we are making a significant contribution to the people of Gugulethu and Khayelitsha by giving them access to opportunities to become employable and contribute to the economic development of the city,” said Zahir Khan, the chief operating officer of Project Isizwe.
In Cape Town, the city is also driving its own internet access initiatives with wifi projects in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain, as well as an imminent roll-out on its MyCiti buses.
The Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain wifi service differs significantly from projects around the country in that it has a daily cap of 3GB. Project Isizwe offers a cap of 250MB but it has increased the speed to 15mbps.
Free wifi internet access aligns with national policy that stipulates universal broadband access by 2020, and the service may yet prove critical to assisting mobile operators with network load.
“Wifi has proven to be a complementary solution for mobile operators in their effort to improve their service delivery to their customers and wifi calling is the next step,” said Michael Fletcher, the sales director for sub-Saharan Africa at Ruckus Wireless.
The GSMA’s Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2014 report found that the mobile ecosystem made a healthy contribution to the gross domestic product of countries in the region. It showed that mobile operators alone contributed $27-billion (about R340-billion today) or 1.9% of the region’s GDP, and a further $8-billion in related industries.
But beyond economic growth, internet access is regarded as a human right.
“For too many people in South Africa, using the internet has turned into a privilege, when it should be a right. We hope that this project will galvanise a nationwide call for free and subsidised internet for all people living in South Africa in under resourced communities,” said Fatima Hassan, the executive director of Open Society Foundation of South Africa, a partner in the Western Cape wifi rollout.