Local duo’s free Wi-Fi plans for PMB

2017-07-19 06:02
Bird Tech free Wi-Fi innovators Siphiwe Ngcobo and Lifa Bekwa hold up one of their technology creations, the FlipPage phone. PHOTO: Ian Carbutt

Bird Tech free Wi-Fi innovators Siphiwe Ngcobo and Lifa Bekwa hold up one of their technology creations, the FlipPage phone. PHOTO: Ian Carbutt

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AN Imbali pair have big hopes and ambitious plans that include providing free Wi-Fi in Pietermaritzburg­.

Soon, when you are scrolling through your phone while in the CBD, you will no longer have to worry about costly data as the two men have come up with a concept to provide free publicly accessible Wi-Fi in the city’s recreational parks and for private businesses.

Lifa Bekwa (27) and Siphiwe Ngcobo­ (37), both from Imbali, told The Witness that their company, Bird Tech, already had some local businesses on board to roll out free Wi-Fi on their premises.

The two men are information technology experts. Bekwa did computer studies at Stanford University in the United States while Ngcobo, a business owner, studied mechanical engineering in Italy, and also computer systems.

They said they were still in talks with the municipality to use public areas­, such as Freedom Square and the Carbineers Garden of Peace, to provide free Wi-Fi.

“This is our initiative, but since we don’t own the infrastructure in the city, we are still building a partnership with the municipality with plans of creating a tech-garden where the public can access Wi-Fi free of charge,” said Bekwa.

He said it would be at no cost to the users, but advertisers will pay for the system and Bird Tech will pay the municipality for the infrastructure. The company will also maintain the public area to make it conducive and welcoming to the public.

Ngcobo said businesses, however, would have to pay them to provide Wi-Fi on their premises.

“The Wi-Fi provided will be beneficial to business as their clients will be able to indirectly advertise their business, restaurant or hotel while on the free Wi-Fi by checking in on social media­ or submitting reviews of services online,” said Ngcobo.

The two said they want to give the people of Pietermaritzburg access to the internet and allow them to “do research, study and apply for jobs without having to pay a hefty price for it”.

“We want to encourage innovators in KZN by making information more accessible. A lot can happen if we enable people to have access to information and the world.

“Anything is possible - who knows, maybe we can create at least one Mark Zuckerberg in SA,” laughed Ngcobo.

They said it was not just about making money, it was about finding a way through the already existing technology to make our country and city a place where people can access information from the internet more easily.

“All this is just the beginning, the bigger plan is to enable Pietermaritzburg to be a Wi-Fi zone, where local businesses, the municipality and community members can be connected on the internet,” he said.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha confirmed that Bird Tech had approached the municipality and conducted a presentation about their plans of offering free Wi-Fi in the city.

“There are no commitments as yet as there are a series of procedures that need to be followed,” said Mafumbatha.

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