Why Joburg wants free Wi-Fi for all residents

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Johannesburg - Offering free Wi-Fi to all Johannesburg residents opens opportunities for employment and empowerment, according to the city's head of broadband Zolani Matabese.

On Saturday, the City of Johannesburg promised free Wi-Fi for all residents within the next five years.

READ: Joburg promises free Wi-Fi for 'all residents'

At the helm of the project, Matabese believes that the initiative will empower and create new opportunities for all citizens.

“You can use the internet to search for jobs. It is just an enablement of your ability to be a digital citizen because if you aren’t these days then you’re getting left behind,” he said.

“The internet is really just high-tech plumbing. You care about the applications that you can use on the internet and you do become reliant on them,” Matabese added.

The City of Johannesburg is aiming to install 1 000 hot-spots by the end of 2016 and become a Smart City by 2020.

Hot-spots have already been installed in and around Johannesburg at bus stations and rates offices – offering users 300MB of data per day.

“We generally see about 150 to 200 people per hot-spot per day that we have. The data is for users to do with as they wish. Obviously we don’t allow things like not-safe-for-work sites and how to make bombs. Other than that we’re not prescriptive on how people use it,” Matabese told Fin24.

The City of Johannesburg is currently working on a programme where digital ambassadors go out to citizens in public venues and teach them how to make use of the free Wi-Fi.

“I think it takes time for people to start using the technology in a way where you can say you’re really a Smart City but I think we’re getting there,” Matabese said.

“These days you do become reliant on technology and there is nothing wrong with that. As a government department or municipality iterates their offerings to the public there is of a pressure to keep up and to make sure that you’re not left behind by the rest of society and the rest of the arms of government,” he said.

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