Connecting South Africa Wirelessly

There’s been a modified image of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs doing the rounds, with Wi-Fi at the bottom of the pyramid, before Physiological Needs. Obviously it’s not an official theoretical extension of Maslow’s work but a great, albeit fleeting, glimpse into how far we have come as a world when it comes to connectivity. There are a number of initiatives to connect the country wirelessly to ensure that citizens can navigate their worlds with ease.

Project Isizwe is a non-profit organisation that seeks to ensure the provision of free Wi-Fi across open public spaces and low-income communities. It was launched in Tshwane towards the end of 2013, in partnership with the City of Tshwane, with hotspots at locations in Soshanguve, Hatfield and Mamelodi. More than 200 schools have been connected, with more planned. In the time since the launch, more than 400,000 unique users have logged in, with about 30,000 logging in every day. Project Isizwe also launched Bus Wi-Fi on the city’s rapid bus transit system, A Re Yeng, and Wi-Fi television towards the end of last year.


Project Isizwe is being rolled out in Tshwane. Image by Darling Lama Productions.

In Cape Town, the city has partnered with Orange Horizons, among others, to also provide free Wi-Fi. “Launched in November last year, the project offers Wi-Fi to those living in the lower-income areas of Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain in Cape Town. It is aimed at bridging the divide in South Africa and Africa, and providing internet access to populations that have been largely disconnected thus far,” says Orange Horizons SA CEO Sebastien Crozier.

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Cape Town city centre. Image courtesy of Lisa Burnell/Cape Town Tourism

While there are other parties involved in the project, Orange says it is the most used provider at this moment. Crozier explains: “The daily usage limit was initially 200MB per user per day in the early stages of the project. This has now been increased to 3GB per user per day to assess the usage of the data.”

The overall intention from the City of Cape Town’s perspective is to roll out free WI-Fi across public spaces and MyCiti buses as well.

Other cities and organisations are also establishing initiatives to ensure that technology, innovation and connectivity start to form the fabric of our societies. With South Africa being one of the most expensive countries when it comes to broadband and mobile calls, hopefully this will take the pressure off and create the foundation for greater innovation and connectivity.


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