Community Impact: Uplifting Communities Through Access to Free WiFi

According to Statistics South Africa, an estimated 90% of South Africans do not have access to the Internet at home, due to reach or budget. Thus, access to information remains a luxury*. Many people in rural areas still rely heavily on mobile phones to stay connected and conduct business. Data costs in South Africa are unaffordable to many. On the other hand, having access to free Wi-Fi presents a lot of options that these communities would not normally have.

The goal of Project Isiziwe NPC is to bring free internet access to underserved parts of South Africa, using Wi-Fi technology. Access to the Internet plays a huge role in bridging the digital divide. The initiative has been assisting community members to gain access to information, particularly at a time where many have been unable to visit libraries or go to school due to COVID protocols.

These communities would not normally be able to afford mobile data costs, and they now have access to the internet as well as “on-net” content, including:

  • Siyavula, tech-powered learning and teaching content;
  • Fundza, mobile “library on a cellphone”;
  • Jobs portals, tips for applying, interviewing and CV writing;
  • Curated videos, episodes of televised lessons, digital textbooks, podcasts, presentations, worksheets, and past exam papers, and;
  • Wi-Fi TV, video-on-demand service with education, entrepreneurship, fashion and sports programmes produced by young community journalists.

In partnership with Project Isizwe NPC, WiFi zones have been implemented at eight of the Fund’s 22 shopping centres. The Fund carries the full costs of the WiFi installation as well as the monthly data costs. Each user is provided with 500MB of free data per day.

In 2021, the free WiFi across the Fund’s centres was used by 75 000 individuals from the local communities and resulted in a combined data saving of over R13.8 million**.

*Source: Stats SA 2019

** The calculation of the data saving is based on the rates in the ICASA State of the ICT sector report