Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa thanks to a partnership between Vodacom Mpumalanga and BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs most of the town’s residents.
The project launched in 2019, with Vodacom deploying 3G and 4G sites across the Wakkerstroom area. This led to over 1 500 farm workers switching from 2G to 3G- and 4G-enabled smartphones.
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“Our long-term vision, to have the widest and best network accessible to all South Africans, irrespective of where they live, started many years ago with substantial capital investments in our infrastructure,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga.
“To achieve this, it’s important that we invest in deep rural areas as well as in the townships to make sure that nobody gets left behind.”
Wakkerstroom project yields positive outcome
According to Vodacom, its mission to enhance network coverage in the Wakkerstroom area has already produced notable results.
“We are excited with the positive results in Wakkerstroom as this demonstrates that Vodacom has been successful in driving digital inclusion and adoption in the area,” says Jiyane.
Wakkerstroom now boasts full internet access for Vodacom customers across the area since it has adopted the faster 4G network.
Vodacom says data usage in the area has increased by 40% and data active customers by 82%. Data traffic is now growing by 205%, annually.
School kids in the area are gaining internet access for this first time, including using the Vodacom e-School for free. The e-School is zero-rated, meaning it doesn’t cost mobile data to use.
Adult members of the community can go job hunting online for free by using other zero-rated platforms via Vodacom ConnectU.
Those who had to travel long distances for banking can now do so from home by using their smartphones.
Internet access drives economic growth in South Africa
Vodacom says there is strong evidence that supports the relationship between internet access and economic growth.
According to a study by the International Telecommunications Union, mobile broadband rollout leads to GDP growth. A 10% increase in mobile broadband penetration leads to a 1% GDP increase in middle-income countries. Meanwhile, it leads to a 2% increase in low-income countries.
By enhancing connectivity in rural areas, Vodacom says it’s playing a key part in developing the South African economy.
“The deployment of networks in deep rural areas will help to enhance socio-economic development in rural areas and access to the internet will help rural dwellers access services such as eHealth, eEducation and eCommerce,” Vodacom says in its press release.
Images supplied by Vodacom.