SABC News - Free Wi-Fi in Jhb assisting in changing lives across the city:Wednesday 9 March 2016

Free Wi-Fi in Jhb assisting in changing lives across the city

Wednesday 9 March 2016 20:29

Mahlako Komane

The City of Johannesburg's Wi-Fi users are allocated 300 megabytes daily and 50% of libraries and clinics also have free Wi-Fi.(SABC)

Access to the internet is considered a major requirement in any developing country and the City of Johannesburg is well on its way to achieving this with many free broadband spots launched six months ago.

In the innovation hub of Braamfontein, free internet is a bonus. Some free Wi-Fi users in the area had this to say about the service:

“The City of Johannesburg's Wi-Fi is quite weak but it is there. I cannot connect, it is like there is too much traffic,” says one user.  

“In terms of school work, it is helping us a lot, so the City of Johannesburg should make more of them,” says another user.

The service is not limited to city dwellers. In the south of Johannesburg, in an area called Poortjie- where people are a far cry from the tech savvy inner city population, where 20% of residents are unemployed and a mere 1,8% have tertiary qualifications- the digital gap has been bridged.

The link between free Wi-Fi and economic activity is well documented and Poortjie provides the proof.

Free internet is helping a group of youngsters from Poortjie to get their newspaper off the ground.

Khumbulani Mohlala, co-founder of Outburst Newspaper, says, “It assists us in terms of free marketing because we cannot afford marketing finances. Free internet has also helped us a lot in terms of research and the distribution of our newspaper because we are reaching more people than when we carry newspapers.”

Users are allocated 300 megabytes daily and 50% of libraries and clinics also have free Wi-Fi.

According to Ravi Naidoo, Executive Director of Economic Development for the City Of Johannesburg, “It is a substantial amount of data. We need to ensure we are able to cross subsidise people who can pay for higher usage than that for the roll out in areas that have no access at all . If we do not have a cross subsidy built in, it means the city rate payers are funding the entire cost themselves- which is not great.”

The broadband service is provided by Metropolitan Trading Company (MTC), a city-owned company. MTC will provide all future IT services to the city, saving it R130 million annually.

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