Cwele unpacks efforts to bring 'Internet for All' to life

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Government is looking to the 'Internet for All' initiative to get 22 million South Africans online by 2020.
Government is looking to the 'Internet for All' initiative to get 22 million South Africans online by 2020.

The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) has implemented various initiatives to ensure its 'Internet for All' project gets off the ground.

This is according to the department's parliamentary reply to Marian Shinn, Democratic Alliance MP and telecoms and postal services shadow minister, detailing the progress of the project that aims to connect over 22 million citizens to the Internet in the next two years.

DTPS minister Siyabonga Cwele announced the launch of the 'Internet for All' programme last May, as part of government aspirations to accelerate connectivity in the country. The project is formed in partnership between the department, the World Economic Forum, public, private and community organisations.

The department noted the initiative will supplement SA Connect, the government project that aims to deliver widespread broadband access to 90% of the country's population by 2020.

Since announcing the project, Cwele indicated progress has been made, with the first being an analysis of existing Internet infrastructure in underserved areas, which will be carried out by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

According to the minister, the CSIR will create an aggregated database to indicate where the gaps are. "This project will assist the project teams to focus on areas where infrastructure exists and where there is no infrastructure for the deployment of technologies that will allow successful Internet access."

Secondly, according to the DTPS, it is collaborating with Sentech and Intelsat as part of a pilot project to roll out connectivity using satellite. Intelsat has committed to connect 10 sites as a pilot throughout the country to support the growth of small, medium and micro enterprises, says Cwele in his reply.

In the past year, the telecoms ministry has set up an 'Internet for All' secretariat that monitors statistics around connected people and coverage provided by all telecoms players.

The department is also looking to establish smart townships. To achieve this, the Cape Digital Foundation, together with local connectivity partner TooMuchWifi, is working on a proof of concept of a smart township as part of the smart cities initiative, reveals Cwele.

The foundation says it is very focused on the promotion and implementation of smart townships. "In our first proof of concept in Imizamo Yethu we have retained R17.5mill through affordable connectivity and in enabling our smart township framework."

According to Cape Digital Foundation, it has five pillars to its smart townships concept: infrastructure, affordablity, digital skills and literacy, local content and data. "With digital skills we are working with University of Western Cape in promoting the training of local SME's in townships, therefore promoting the township economy."

In the reply, the minister also notes the ZA Central Registry (ZACR) has commenced a project for the translation of Wikipedia content into the additional 10 official languages besides English and to some extent Afrikaans. "Currently, the ZACR has done translation into Xhosa and SiSwati. Learners from schools in Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga have already started with this project."

Finally, a skills and awareness programme is in progress. The initiative, Cwele states, aims to reach thousands of people. "A network of trainers received training in basic digital skills, which they will then use to teach the general population."

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