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Orange WiFi survey offers insight into township connectivity but underestimates fundamental obstacles

A large number of people are still without internet. There are a couple of reasons for this: first, internet access is expensive. Secondly, it is simply not available in certain communities. In parts of Khayelitsha for instance, the signal is incredibly weak for mobile internet and never connects on PC. Often when one leaves it from a visit, text messages, inboxes, emails and missed calls flood one’s phone as if they had been stuck in a cave with zero reception.

All that is worth bearing in mind when looking at a new survey done by Orange Horizon, which offers new insights about Internet consumption in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain. Last year in November, Orange in partnership with the City of Cape Town launched its Orange Wifi service in the two areas. The French mobile operator said that the project would be laid out in two phases.

The first phase, which has just been completed, saw residents given 200MB of free data per day and then the second phase asking people to pay for it. The trouble is, the company only dealt with the second issue in passing.

“The aim of this project is to assist in bridging the divide in South Africa and Africa by providing Internet access to those populations that have been largely disconnected thus far. Being the most used provider on the project, we are satisfied with the results of the first wave of the study, and believe they are in line with our vision of a world where Internet access is available to all and our plan to launch an ISP in South Africa by the end of 2015,” said Sebastien Crozier, CEO, Orange Horizons.

Read more: Worldwide mobile data usage expected to double over the next four years

The company found out that there is sophisticated usage of the data, with the majority of users browsing, messaging, using social media, and streaming and downloading content.

Research released last year by iPass Inc, showed that over the next four years, global hotspot numbers will grow to over 340 million; nearly one Wi-Fi hotspot for every twenty people on earth by 2018. The research showed that France, where Orange Horizon is from, was the highest “country of Wi-Fi” in 2014 with the most hotspots in total, followed by the USA and the UK. Large parts of Africa are still far behind and South Africa, places out of the city are not yet with WiFi.

WiFi
image by Simon, flickr

This is not a new project by any means, Project Isizwe in Pretoria has been doing the same thing, disseminating its limited free data in parks, gardens and other public spaces. In Johannesburg, Telkom, in partnership with the South African National Taxi Council (Santaco), launched free Wi-Fi connections at taxi ranks and in mini bus taxis and plans to roll it out throughout the country.

From the first phase of the lay out of the Orange WiFi service, Orange has obtained, which is what they document in the research it has released that people do make use of the data in the township. This is nothing new, this has been happening for as long as it has been happening elsewhere. The issue with data usage in the township and rural areas is not that the community are not heavy users of data, the problem is affordability and speed.

Read more: 3 reasons you should be wary of free WiFi

To obtain its findings Orange Horizons interviewed 200 Internet users within Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plein. The survey was conducted in areas within 500 metres of the WiFi access points, in order to measure the demographic profile of the internet users in the areas, analyse internet access methods and usage in the areas, and evaluate the awareness around the Orange brand and the potential for future services. The survey was carried out throughout the months of March and April.

The survey reveals that 98% penetration rate if Internet usage amongst those who were Interviewed. A large majority of the respondents said that their main source of connection remains mobile phones, as much as 94% and about 60% use tablets and laptops.

The results showed that 33 % of respondents accessed the Internet using PCs and laptops and 26% via tablets. In terms of usage, 84% of respondents said they used the data for social media connection, 82% for messaging, 80% for web browsing, 77% for emails and 45% for downloading of content.

Orange Horizon reveals that the respondents would like to pay for the data and it does not say how much and for how long. The survey states that 63% of respondents showed willingness to pay for Orange WiFi.

About 50% of respondents say they would like to use the internet more, going forward. In future, 66% of respondents see Wifi as their most necessary internet connection.

Author | Myolisi Sikupela: Staff Reporter

Myolisi Sikupela: Staff Reporter
Myolisi Sikupela was born in the Transkei in the village of Zikhovane. He is interested in the politics of technology. More