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Vodacom creates SA’s first smartphone-only town

Vodacom has created South Africa’s “smartphone-only” first town, which has all its residents connected via 3G, 4G, and 5G devices. Read about Wakkerstroom’s digital transformation.

Vodacom has moved all farmworkers using 2G feature phones to 3G devices and opened a new world of internet and technology to farmworkers in the area. This comes in the form of a partnership between the telco and BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. 

Wakkerstroom is now the first smartphone-only town in SA powered by Vodacom. This model the network provider hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deeply rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

This is a move that provides meaningful societal impact for low-income earners who eke out a living as farm workers by empowering them with the necessary tools to be part of the Digital Revolution. Vodacom working with BPG Langfontein is pioneering an approach to connect people in rural communities to faster mobile networks and devices, so they can take full advantage of the benefits of the Digital Revolution.

Wakkerstroom is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province. The town is on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.

Zakhele Jiyane, managing executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga says: “There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people. We are helping to remove communication barriers so that citizens in the area can be part of the Digital Revolution and reap the associated benefits. Moving the more than 1400 farmworkers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much-needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farmworkers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Providing network connectivity for people who reside in rural areas is a high priority for Vodacom and is part of our vision to make sure that we connect everyone no matter where they live. Vodacom has deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this commitment.

Broadband penetration has a transformative power and is an enabler for economic and social growth and as such, makes it an essential tool for empowering people in rural areas. The World Bank study concludes that a 10 percentage point increase in fixed broadband penetration could increase GDP growth by 1.21% in developed economies and 1.38% in developing ones.

For the next phase of this project, Vodacom is going to educate the farmworkers about data and the benefits of the internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community with its CSI tools in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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