Cape expands broadband with public access centre

2014-04-23 08:41
The Western Cape government has piloted an Interactive Community Access Network (Ican) Centre as part of broadband expansion in Cape Town. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

The Western Cape government has piloted an Interactive Community Access Network (Ican) Centre as part of broadband expansion in Cape Town. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - The Western Cape government has funded a new digital access centre in an impoverished area of Cape Town to speed up internet access to disadvantaged communities.

On Tuesday the provincial government announced the development of an Interactive Community Access Network (Ican) Centre in Elsies River.

The centre forms part of the broadband rollout in the city that has seen a saving of R47.6m in telecommunications costs, said the city's Integrated Strategic Communication and Branding department.

The centre will be housed in the Elsies River Multi-Purpose Centre and residents will have access to Wi-Fi, study rooms and sound-proof recording booths.

"Local entrepreneurs can come and grow their business ideas, learners will have a study resource space and residents will be able to further their ICT training," said Finance, Economic Development and Tourism MEC Alan Winde.

Human right

He added that the focus of the programme was entrepreneurship, which could accelerate the growth of the provincial economy.

"Key to the success of these centres is the social entrepreneurship model. In this model, government partners with local entrepreneurs to establish and maintain public facilities. This model ensures that business opportunities are created for emerging SMMEs."

Internet access as a human right has been gaining momentum with a number of calls for universal access to be a government priority.

In SA, the government has set itself a deadline of 2020 for universal broadband access for citizens according to the National Development Plan.


Universal broadband is seen as a human right. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

This sentiment is in line with the World Summit on the Information Society which declared the "commitment to build a people-centred, inclusive and development-oriented Information Society" under the auspices of the UN.

According to the GSM Association's Sub-Saharan Mobile Economy report of 2013, the deployment of 3G services is at 7.6% in the region, far below the global average for developing markets of 17.3%.

World Wide Worx revealed that 90% of the 6.4 million South Africans who access the internet in SA rely solely on an internet connection on their mobile phones.

Broadband access

To meet the growing data demand major cities in SA are rolling out a variety of data access plans.

The City of Tshwane is rolling out a city-wide Wi-Fi network and Executive Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa said that the programme would be expanded.

"In the next eighteen months, the City of Tshwane will expand the project and roll out about 600 additional Wi-Fi hotspots throughout Tshwane, prioritising institutions of learning," he said in his State of the Capital City Address.

In Johannesburg, the broadband network is complete and targeted at providing access to poor communities.

"A long time ago, if you went to Orange Farm or Diepsloot, you wouldn't be able to access data. But if you go there today, you'll find that you have access to all those technologies, and that's only a start because we have coverage in those areas and we've proved that there is viability in rolling out data services to underserviced communities," said Zolani Matebese, project manager for the Johannesburg broadband network.

The Western Cape government plans to spend around R1.3bn on a broadband network that is expected to save money in terms of internal communications and also provide a platform for residents to access the internet.

"This project will complement the success of the city's SmartCape project, which provides free internet access at 102 public libraries throughout the Metro. Today the SmartCape project has extended to provide Wi-Fi internet access in public buildings, and has over 300 000 users," said the city's Mayoral Committee Member for Corporate Services, Alderman Demetri Qually.


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