Broadband

Gauteng promises free Internet to township households

Read time 3min 10sec
Gauteng MEC of finance and e-government, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko.
Gauteng MEC of finance and e-government, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko.

Gauteng MEC of finance and e-government, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, has promised free Internet services to some townships in the province.

Nkomo-Ralehoko, who delivered her budget vote speech on Wednesday, said she had positive engagements with the MEC for economic development, Dr Kgosientso Ramokgopa, which resulted in a partnership with Vumatel to roll out broadband connectivity to connect 900 000 households in Ekurhuleni and 450 000 in Soweto.

She adds that the Internet remains the most critical component of digital transformation and plays an important role in empowering citizens with access to information.

In her speech in the provincial legislature, the MEC said her department is enhancing national government policy, which is demanding digital transformation by providing services in digital platforms and create universal access for citizens.

“The expectation in the sixth administration is that the Department of e-Government must work with other spheres of government to craft a common digital future. This collaborative effort of digitisation and this knowledge-based economy requires that the department must devise a programme for innovation to unleash the talents and creativity of the people of Gauteng in the context of the fourth industrial revolution,” Nkomo-Ralehoko said.

She explained that the emerging global trends of innovations require governments to take a fresh look at how they strategise and plan.

“But most importantly, how we respond to urgent and pressing needs of our people in order not to stay behind in technological changes.”

Nkomo-Ralehoko said this initiative is part of Gauteng’s vision of transforming the province into a technological hub, investing in “wall-to-wall” broadband coverage focused in deprived areas announced by Gauteng premier David Makhura during his State of the Province Address.

She said: “Knowledge is the key to opening many doors of opportunity and the Internet provides it. Most of our people are unemployed and don’t know where their next meal will come from. We need to change this by equipping them with information that can help them change their lives.

“The Internet gives you access to the whole world at your fingertips. It connects and gives you access to many knowledge systems that one can use to start a business, take advantage of social entrepreneurship and more.”

The MEC’s announcement comes as the race to connect townships is on.

A number of companies are racing to provide high-speed fibre broadband access in South African townships, particularly those in Gauteng.

Soweto, considered one of SA’s most advanced townships, has in recent months witnessed increased activity in fibre rollout, as service providers lay infrastructure in the township.

In May, Telkom went live with its fibre connectivity at Orlando West High School in Soweto, giving learners Internet access. This move, said the JSE-listed group, is in line with plans to bridge the digital divide in township communities.

Speaking to the SABC, Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko said his company has been deploying fibre in parts of Soweto, such as Diepkloof, Orlando West and Pimville, for a while; noting this is being done in a commercially viable way.

Last month, Frogfoot Networks, a licensed open access fibre network provider, said it will connect homes in Soweto’s Protea Glen suburb with fibre. This will be done in a phased approach.

Frogfoot says up to 20 000 homes and businesses in that area stand to benefit as a result of its fibre infrastructure rollout.

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