Alan Winde, Minister of Economic Opportunities, today (26 September 2016) announced the location of the 22 new hotspots, which are now live. This forms part of the Western Cape Government and Neotel’s public access Wi-Fi project. Known as NeoHotspots, there are now 72 hotspots throughout the province.
The first 50 of the hotspots were launched by Premier Helen Zille, Minister Winde and Neotel in March this year. Being driven by the provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism, the project aims to activate one hotspot in each of the province’s 384 municipal wards by 2018.
Speaking at a media briefing in the city centre this morning, Minister Winde provided an overview of the scheduled roll-out for the rest of the financial year.
“A further 88 hotspots will go live between now and March next year, bringing the total number of hotspots we have launched since March to 150. The remaining 234 will be installed in the 2017/2018 financial year.”
Over the next few months these hotspots will be installed in Beaufort West, Bitou, Breede Valley, Cederberg, Drakenstein, Knysna, Laingsburg, Mossel Bay and Oudsthoorn.
Minister Winde also gave a progress report on usage at the existing 50 hotspots.
“In the five months since the first NeoHotsposts went live, usage has steadily increased with more than 37 000 devices having connected to the limited free service, and over 1,7 TB of free data being used to download and upload information.”
On top of the free allocation, Western Cape citizens purchasing Neotel’s low cost data vouchers have utilised a further 8227GB (over 8TB) of data. Neotel’s low cost NeoHotspot vouchers help to contribute to the sustainability of the Wi-Fi model.
To ensure the service delivered a real benefit to residents, Internet Champions were based at all the NeoHotspots locations. Minister Winde said it was their role to assist communities with basic digital literacy and Internet awareness.
“Since March, the Internet Champions have delivered a starter course to over 180,000 citizens.”
Cape Town-based app development company AppLabs attended the media event and demonstrated its “Wifinda” app, which locates the Wi-Fi hotspots. Launched in August, the app includes the full suite of NeoHotspots on a searchable list, together with a map showing hotspot locations, and is available across both Android and Apple platforms.
Minister Winde said AppLabs was an example of how the Wi-Fi project was encouraging innovation in the private sector.
“This is another way the private sector and government are partnering through the use of technology to deliver better services to residents and businesses in the Western Cape. The Western Cape Government sees broadband as an economic enabler, allowing businesses and citizens to improve their lives through connectivity and technology. The World Bank found that for every 10% increase in broadband penetration in a developing country, GDP grows by 1,38%. We know that Internet access opens a world of possibilities for communities including educational content, job information, transactional opportunities, improved communication with friends and family and access to new markets. At the same time, just under 50% of South African citizens have access to the internet. Through this initiative, we are extending access to these opportunities to more residents.”
The project is based on limited free Wi-Fi, which allows every device that connects to one of the NeoHotspots a free allocation of 250MB of data every month.Users of NeoHotspots will also be able to top up at the lowest rates in South Africa for Internet access - just R5/day or R45/month. Vouchers are available online and from participating Spar retail outlets, Pick ‘n Pay and Engen service stations.
Furthermore, government websites and a basic ‘Internet Champion’ digital literacy course are permanently free to browse.