13 June 2014
South African commuters using the country’s most popular form of public transport – the minibus taxi – will now be able to update their Facebook status, check their e-mail and surf the internet through a free wi-fi connection on their way to work.
On Thursday, the South African National Taxi Association (Santaco) started rolling out a free service that, it says, will see 1 500 taxis and 50 taxi ranks across the country fitted with wi-fi access points within six months, and universal coverage in all its taxis and taxi ranks within three years.
Each commuter will receive 50 MB of free wi-fi per month on 3G and 4G platforms, with the option of buying more if they run out. Once a commuter’s mobile device is connected with the wi-fi network, they will be able to use their 50 MB in any connected taxi or taxi rank.
South Africa’s taxi industry transports over 15-million commuters daily with an average of 45 minutes per trip.
“We want to keep our 15-million daily commuters and attract more people back to using public transport in general and taxis in particular,” Santaco president Philip Taaibosch said at the launch of the initiative in Soweto on Thursday.
Sanaco is partnering with Telkom Mobile and technology company Wi-Taxi to drive the service, which was successfully piloted in Johannesburg in April and May.
According to Wi-Taxi’s website, the service will have no effect on taxi fares, nor will it increase the risk of fraud or theft as “all devices are network locked and can only connect to the Wi-Taxi services”.
Gauteng’s transport minister, Ismail Vadi, also speaking at Thursday’s launch, praised the “novel” initiative, saying an urban province such as Gauteng should have a high rate of internet connectivity.
His remarks were echoed by independent telecoms analyst Spiwe Chireka, who told technology news website ITWeb that the taxi association’s move was “an indication of innovative ways that, as South Africa, we are able to use to drive access.”