Project Isizwe has announced that it is rolling out its free Wi-Fi offering at taxi ranks in Gugulethu and Khayalitsha.
The initiative, run in partnership with the Open Society Foundation of South Africa, is designed to enable people in and around the Gugulethu and Khayelitsha taxi ranks to access the internet, making it easier for them to get information about issues such as education and employment.
This is one of the first Project Isizwe deployments in the greater Cape Town area (in late 2014 it launched in the Western Cape town of Atlantis), but the Alan Kott-Craig Jr-run initiative has already seen success in Tshwane as well as in the Eastern Cape. The Tshwane network was launched in November 2013 and has since grown to over 700 000 unique users at over 500 sites.
“Living without information is unthinkable and we believe that we are making a significant contribution to the people of Gugulethu and Khayelitsha by giving them access to opportunities to become employable and contribute to the economic development of the city,” says Zahir Khan, COO of Project Isizwe.
As Khan rightly points out, low-income communities have the most to gain from internet access, but are often excluded from accessing the internet due to high data costs.
By Project Isizwe’s reckoning, free Wi-Fi networks in low-income communities are “one of the most effective means to bridge the digital divide and ensure equal opportunity for all”.
“For too many people in South Africa, using the internet has turned into a privilege, when it should be a right. We hope that this project will galvanise a nationwide call for free and subsidised internet for all people living in South Africa in under resourced communities. The project is by no means a comprehensive solution to the bigger issues of affordability and accessibility of the internet for ordinary South Africans — this requires collaboration between government and private companies that ordinarily provide such services, coupled with a strong policy framework that enables affordable access on a permanent basis,” says Fatima Hassan, Executive Director of Open Society Foundation of South Africa.
Unlike some of its previous deployments, Project Isizwe isn’t the only Free Wi-Fi provider looking to serve these communities. Late last year, Orange rolled out its own free Wi-Fi initiative in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain.