Free Internet for everyone in Western Cape: Zille

The Western Cape government, the State Information Technology Agency (Sita), and Neotel signed a strategic agreement to provide broadband services to approximately 2,000 government sites.

This is according to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille who said in her state of the province address today (Friday, 20 June 2014) that the agreement was signed this morning.

Included among the 2,000 government sites are schools, libraries, and health facilities.

“By May 2016, all sites will be connected with minimum speeds of 10Mbps under this agreement,” Zille said. “By August 2018, most sites will be connected by fibre optic cables with 90% of sites enjoying 100Mbps speeds and 10% enjoying 1Gbps speeds.”

Zille said that their government is also committed to ensuring that their communities can tangibly benefit from this agreement.

“Neotel has therefore generously committed to funding the infrastructure rollout of 384 Wi-Fi hotspots, using Western Cape Government buildings, which will cover almost every ward in the province.”

The Western Cape government will be subsidising the free portion of citizens’ internet access, she said.

These Wi-Fi Hotspots will be rolled out over a period of four years, as Neotel builds the fibre network.

According to Zille, this means that every citizen will have the opportunity to access “limited free” Internet at the Wi-Fi hotspots across the province.

“We believe the rollout of these hotspots will be a game changer for development,” Zille said. “It will help reduce the digital divide, make economic opportunities more accessible and generate new business opportunities.”

To this end, the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism will also establish a new business incubator to support entrepreneurial talent and aspiring ‘techies’ in disadvantaged communities to develop software and innovative applications.

“Our internationally acclaimed bandwidth barn has achieved outstanding success and it is time to replicate this concept,” Zille said.

Neotel has also committed to spending approximately 25% of the value of their contract with local companies.

Zille promised that they will use a number of small businesses as well as local labour during the construction of the network, creating jobs throughout the province.

“They have also agreed to provide seed funding for the establishment of a Western Cape Broadband Foundation which will focus on leveraging private sector contributions and funding to help deliver innovative broadband-related services as widely as possible,” she said.

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Free Internet for everyone in Western Cape: Zille