The City of Tshwane’s free Wi-Fi programme hit a milestone of one million unique devices on Wednesday, writes DUNCAN ALFREDS.
The free Wi-Fi rollout programme is part of the metro’s eKaelo strategy to boost engagement and government response with citizens.
“It’s just a number, but it’s a biggie. It means that Tshwane has touched the lives of over one million people: Mostly young and mostly in low income communities. That’s cool,” Alan Knott-Craig Jnr, Project Isizwe chief executive told Fin24.
The non-governmental organisation is responsible for the delivery of the Tshwane network and the record was reached at 20:47 on Wednesday night.
The public Wi-Fi network is the largest of its kind in the country, followed by the Western Cape, according to research firm BMI-T.
“In terms of Government sponsored deployments there are currently around 1 800 active hotspots in South Africa with the bulk of these being concentrated in Project Isizwe’s Tshwane deployment, and projects in the Western Cape,” Christopher Geerdts, associate Telecoms Consultant at BMI-T told Fin24 recently.
In Cape Town, the public Wi-Fi programme has 170 hot spots, though it intends to construct another 120 in the current year. Tshwane has 633 hot spots serving 165 000 users per month, in contrast to 30 000 in Cape Town.
Geerdts said that free Wi-Fi was not sustainable, and required a business model.
“Someone ultimately has to pay for these services. Public projects can be all or part sponsored by national, provincial or local government and/or the private sector. Project Isizwe received donated bandwidth from Neotel. Other ISPs and telcos could also contribute, especially if there is some CSI capital to be gained from this.”
World Bank statistics show that a 10% increase in internet access results in approximately 1% growth in GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
Knott-Craig referenced a UN position on the universal nature of the internet, arguing that internet access was a human right.
“Internet access is like water. A utility. The poor should be entitled to a daily free quota. Cities must find the budget to do so. Unlike water, internet access has a proven multiplier effect on the local economy, resulting in higher tax revenues.”