The City of Cape Town is broadening its already extensive free internet access service, by rolling out additional wi-fi hotspots to boost digital inclusivity.
The two-pronged approach adopted has resulted in rolling out of public wi-fi zones across the city, in addition to the SmartCape service which has been provided in every city library and certain other municipal buildings, since 2002.
SmartCape, is, for example, available at the Helderberg Nature Reserves environmental education centre.
By the end of June, 80 public wi-fi zones with 294 access point had been rolled out, with a further 60 planned for the current financial year until June 2017.
“Commercial service providers use City access points in public areas to offer a wi-fi service which must include an ‘free’ daily data allowance, which is currently 100 MB a person a day,” according to mayoral committee member for corporate services and compliance, Councillor Xanthea Limberg.
Although no public wi-fi zones yet exist in the Helderberg Basin, the SmartCape service is available free at all libraries in Somerset West, Strand, Sir Lowry’s Pass Village, Gordon’s Bay, and Macassar. Individual use is limited to 50 MB of data a day with a cap of 500 MB a month.
According to Ms Limberg, the City’s objective in making such access available at no charge has been realised according to research conducted by organisations such as the World Bank, as well as the City’s private sector partners.
“The research shows that the internet has been utilised for job searching purposes, research, downloading and social media. In addition, we have inspiring stories from many of our City librarians who have witnessed how community members have used the free internet access to run their small businesses,” she said.
Access to cost-effective and high speed internet is essential to connecting residents with economic opportunities and with online news, social media and other services, she said.
“It is an important foundation for budding entrepreneurs. Today, running a business does not mean entrepreneurs have to be confined to an office. It can be effectively managed while on the go. Lack of internet access could mean missed opportunities which prevent many people from achieving their goals and dreams.
“Digital access for communities can no longer be viewed as a privilege, but more as a necessity.”
The City will continue to honour its commitment to provide free wi-fi access across communities by operating wi-fi zones both inside and outside public buildings, and extending these public spaces across the City. The World Bank estimates that for every 10 percent penetration of Internet access, a country’s GDP grows by 1.28 percent.
The benefits to local communities are numerous, including access to information, informal learning to support existing education systems, and employment, Ms Limberg said.