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Alan Knott-Craig Jr’s next chapter: free Wi-Fi for Africa

Project Isizwe

If you’ve been wondering what Alan Knott-Craig Jr’s been up to since leaving Mxit in October last year, the answer (or part of it anyway) lies in providing free Wi-Fi to low-income communities around the African continent.

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The non-profit venture, called Project Isizwe, was initially meant to be a side project for Knott-Craig, but eventually came to take up most of his time.

Isizwe’s pilot project is being run in conjunction with City of Tshwane, which administers South Africa’s executive capital Pretoria and its surrounds.

In a press briefing, it was revealed that the first phase of the project will see it providing free Wi-Fi to five points across the city, before expanding to other areas, including schools in the low-income areas of Soshanguve, Mamelodi and Atteridgeville.

The hope is that all state schools and tertiary institutes will have free Wi-Fi by the end of 2016.

Isizwe has some serious ambition, and it reckons that, if it manages to achieve its goals, it will be able to act as a serious force for positive change across the entire African continent:

“The internet is the greatest force for change in the history of our species and Project Isizwe exists to harness the Internet, as a force for change, and bring it to people across the continent of Africa, propelling it forward into a brighter future,” its online description says.

As was the case when Knott-Craig spearheaded efforts to introduce free Wi-Fi to the Western Cape university town of Stellenbosch, Isizwe will leverage unused bandwidth inside and call “asymmetrical online businesses” — businesses that serve a lot of traffic (think of Wikipedia or Reddit) but don’t pull a lot of traffic from the internet.

The Wi-Fi base stations will also apparently include hard drives with cached versions of Wikipedia on them. “This reduces break-out costs because we have to access data centres less frequently,” Knott-Craig told the briefing.

In fact, Knott-Craig says the idea for Isizwe was sparked by the success of the Stellenbosch project and has been pretty much solidified since April. He also credits the time he took off after his Mxit departure for helping him push the idea through.

“There are not many people who know the system that aren’t working like me,” he said.

Anyone wishing to donate to Isizwe can do so on its site.

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