South Africa has numerous challenges, and technology and telecoms are particularly hard hit by poor education, a lack of infrastructure, and a ministry struggling to guide the industry. However, there are numerous examples where South African companies and individuals are doing their bit to boost IT in the country.
Telkom is currently investing in a new high speed broadband network, and the cellular providers are ready to roll out commercial LTE networks to provide next generation mobile broadband offerings.
Many smaller telecoms players, including Dark Fibre Africa (DFA) and Link Africa, are rolling out fibre infrastructure to boost broadband access in South Africa.
However, for this article we look at non-commercial initiatives where individuals and companies are dedicating their resources to projects which benefit society and the local IT industry.
Some of the cool projects in South Africa’s technology sector include the various wireless user groups, Stellenbosch’s free Wi-Fi network, the free Woza Online website project, online fraud protection service CardFather, and Sleekgeek.
Wireless User Groups (WUGs) are essentially large Wi-Fi networks which make it possible for members to connect to each other and share information, play games, and use other network resources free of charge. All WUGs listed here are non-profit communities, and the current aim is to integrate all the WUGs around the country and potentially link them together in the future.
Stellenbosch’s free Wi-Fi network is an initiative between the Stellenbosch municipality, Mxit, and the Stellenbosch University, and aims to provide residents and visitors of the town with free Internet access. Earlier this year Stellenbosch mayor Conrad Sidego announced that the town is planning to build an extensive free Wi-Fi network, covering the full municipal area.
Woza Online is a joint initiative by Google, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Vodacom, and the Human Resources Development Council, and aims to help South African SMEs create their own websites, in turn boosting SME turnovers, SA job creation, and economic growth.
The Woza Online initiative has successfully helped over 25,000 South African small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) set up websites easily and for free since its launch in January this year.
The CardFather is an initiative by online commerce companies in South Africa which keeps a database that is updated on a regular basis with the details of known fraudsters that try to buy items and services from South African e-commerce websites. As a CardFather member you can login and view the details of fraudsters, or update the database and thus help protect your business and the local online family.
Sleekgeek is project started by Elan Lohmann, MD of Digital at Avusa, which helps IT professionals (aka geeks) and other interested individuals to lose weight and improve their health. Lohmann describes Sleekgeek as a social community which provides guidance, advice, support and motivation for individuals to lose weight, become fit and create a ‘sustainable lifestyle’.
Do you know about any great tech projects? Let us know in the comments below this article or in the forum discussion thread.