Cape taxi ranks get free Wi-Fi internet access

Wi-Fi internet access is growing in SA. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
Wi-Fi internet access is growing in SA. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

Cape Town - Free Wi-Fi is being rolled out at taxi ranks in the Western Cape as an expansion of a project to grow internet access throughout South Africa.

On Friday, Project Isizwe announced that commuters at Gugulethu and Khayelitsha taxi ranks will be granted access to free Wi-Fi, as the organisation forges ahead with its programme to connect mainly disadvantaged areas with the internet.

The organisation has been driving internet access through Wi-Fi in the City of Tshwane as part its digital inclusion programme with 514 Wi-Fi zones out of 633 situated at educational institutions.

There is also a pilot free Wi-Fi zone in the Eastern Cape at the Mount Frere and Lusikisiki campuses of TVET College.

"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," said Zahir Khan, chief operating officer of Project Isizwe.

National policy

In Cape Town, the City is also driving its own internet access initiatives with Wi-Fi projects in Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain as well as an imminent roll-out on MyCiti buses.

The Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain Wi-Fi service differentiates significantly from projects around the country in that it has a daily cap of 3GB. Project Isizwe offers a cap of 250MB but it has increased the speed to 15mbps.

Free Wi-Fi internet access aligns with national policy that stipulates universal broadband access by 2020, and the service may yet prove critical to assisting mobile operators with network load.

Stellenbosch-based Project Isizwe is driving Wi-Fi access to impoverished communities. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)

"Wi-Fi has proven to be a complementary solution for mobile operators in their effort to improve their service delivery to their customers and Wi-Fi calling is the next step," Michael Fletcher, sales director sub-Saharan Africa at Ruckus Wireless told Fin24 recently.

The GSMA's Mobile Economy Sub-Saharan Africa 2014 report found that the mobile ecosystem makes a healthy contribution to the GDP of countries in the region.

The report shows that mobile operators alone contribute $27bn or 1.9% of the region's GDP, and a further $8bn in related industries.

But beyond economic growth, internet access is regarded as a human right.

"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," said Fatima Hassan, executive director of Open Society Foundation of South Africa, a partner in the Western Cape Wi-Fi rollout.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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