The rise of Woza Online: 10K websites in just two months

Google’s Woza Online initiative claims to have successfully helped 11 200 small businesses set up websites easily and for free in South Africa — all in just two months. And Google expects “thousands more” to sign up in the coming months.

Woza Online is a world-wide initiative that helps small businesses create their own websites, in turn boosting job creation and economic growth. Google has launched similar initiatives in 23 other countries around the world from Great Britain, Canada, and Australia to Brazil, Indonesia, France, and Poland — bringing 400 000 businesses online over two years.

In Africa, the programme was launched in Kenya and Nigeria last year, with these countries seeing over 20 000 businesses going online within the first two months.

Launched in South Africa in January this year, Woza Online is a joint initiative by Google, the country’s Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), mobile phone operator Vodacom and the Human Resources Development Council.

“With 11 200 websites already published since launch, there is clearly a strong appetite among SMEs (Small and medium-sized enterprises) to get online and take advantage of what the web has to offer,” said Luke Mckend, Google SA Country Manager at the event.

“A wide variety of businesses from caterers and nursery schools, to plumbers and bakers, now have websites and are already seeing more customers requesting their services as a result- it goes to show any business can have a website.”

Mckend also announced that Durban will be the first South African city to help small businesses without their own computers by making computers available at SmartXchange in Durban Central. The computers were donated by the eThekwini council and the SmartXchange centre will offer this free service, allowing SMBs who don’t have access to the Internet to be able to create their own websites.

Also present at the event was KwaZulu-Natal First Lady, Dr May Mashego-Mkhize, who said:

Empowering entrepreneurs to increase their turnovers, raise their business profiles and ultimately create jobs for more citizens is vital to economic change in South Africa. The Woza initiative also helps us to achieve provincial goals such as boosting the tourism industry, creating and supporting sustainable enterprises and strengthening the culture of entrepreneurship.

Lizelle Comfort, owner of Durban based Zephyr Hair Design has seen a dramatic change since creating a Woza Online site for her business:

We tried to use social media to promote our business, but the next step was definitely to create our own website. With Woza Online it was so quick and easy that we now have customers phoning us saying, ‘We got your number off the Internet.’ This is great to experience and of course business is booming.

Businesses participating in the Woza Online initiative get:

  • a free easy-to-build professional website
  • a free sub-domain name and hosting
  • an automatic listing on Google Places, which reflects in Google Maps
  • access to training material and workshops
  • free online support available via Google Chat and email
  • one year free top-level domain name for the first 10 000 applicants



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