19 November 2007
Capetonians who do not own computers or who cannot afford to use internet cafes can now access both, free of charge, through the City of Cape Town’s expanded Smart Cape Access Project.
A new public access point was opened in the foyer of the 44 Wale Street building in the heart of Cape Town’s CBD last week, with five computers that can be used by anyone for up to 45 minutes each per day.
The building’s foyer area has been converted into a large public space with information and displays covering a range of city services, as well as the Smart Cape computers. The access point is open from 9am to 4pm on weekdays.
The computers can be used to surf the internet, and every user gets a free e-mail account.
Smart Cape, which aims to provide computing facilities with free internet access to all the citizens of Cape Town, was launched in July 2002 as a pilot project at six libraries: Wesfleur, Brooklyn, Delft, Grassy Park, Guguletu and Lwandle.
The following year Smart Cape won the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s $1-million Access to Learning award, which has contributed to extending the project.
“Since we launched the Smart Cape Access Project in 2002, over 100 000 people have made use of the computers installed in Cape Town’s public libraries,” said Nirvesh Sooful, the City’s chief information officer.
This, he said, was the first move to expand computer access to other public buildings, so that more people could gain experience of computer use.
“We hope that workers and residents in Cape Town’s CBD will find this new facility useful.”
The city’s e-governance strategy is to give people access to computers, help them develop the skills to use them, and provide online information that is useful and relevant to local people.
“Our library access points and digital business centres are still only reaching a small proportion of the residents of our city”, Sooful said. “If people are to get computer experience, which is a vital skill for employment in the modern economy, then we need to build more facilities like this one.”