According to the Business Day, the Western Cape provincial government is aiming to launch 384 Wi-Fi hotspots in strategic locations across the province to ensure maximum coverage for all citizens by 2019.
The provincial government, together with Neotel, on Wednesday launched the first 50 of 384 planned public access Wi-Fi hotspots.
"While there are a few small-scale municipal Wi-Fi projects on the go, no other provincial administration is undertaking a connectivity project of this scale. We are also the only province focused on bringing connectivity to rural areas, with a hotspot in every single ward no matter where you are," says Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde, in a joint statement.
The provincial government and various municipalities in the province, including the city of Cape Town, has aggressively pushed the roll-out of broadband in recent times, which it sees as a key economic enabler.
Cape Town set aside R236m for the 2015-16 financial year for the roll-out of broadband infrastructure throughout the metro — part of its R1,3bn broadband infrastructure programme to be completed over seven to 10 years. In 2014, the Western Cape signed a R2,89bn, 10-year contract with the State Information and Technology Agency (Sita) and Neotel to connect more than 1,900 public buildings to high-speed broadband.
Ms Zille and Mr Winde said that the province’s number one priority was to grow the economy and create jobs, and WiFi connectivity would enable that.
"E-Commerce is growing at a rate of around 30% a year, with the growth showing no signs of slowing down. The result is that an internet economy worth R59bn in 2011 and making up 2% of the South African economy, will grow to as much as 2,5% of the economy by 2016. The World Bank has shown that a 10% increase in broadband penetration results in a 1,38% increase in GDP," they added.
Ms Zille first announced the Wi-Fi project in her state of the province address last month. She said at the time the provincial government was prioritising schools in terms of broadband roll-out. A total of 692 schools had been connected to date, as well as 92 libraries and 169 corporate sites. She said the provincial government aimed to have free high-speed internet available in all schools by the end of this year.
"To date, the Sita has invested approximately R315m in our broadband programme and Neotel has invested R186m," says the premier.
The Wi-Fi hotspots are mounted on the external walls of buildings and point out towards the nearby community they are serving. Depending on topography, anyone within 200m of the hotspot can use the service.
There will be 300MB per month of free browsing available to users on their first connection and thereafter 250MB monthly. A specialised content portal has been devised which allows unlimited browsing of government websites, as well as a digital literacy course.
Users can top up their data if it runs out and can purchase bundles for as little as R5 for 700MB, 2G for R15 and 7G for R45. The extra data will only expire in 2024.