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South Africa: Western Cape Widens Broadband Lead
Source: IT WebNews
Source Date: Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Focus: ICT for MDGs
Country: South Africa
Created: Jul 08, 2014

The rollout includes 384 WiFi hotspots across the province. According to Western Cape premier Helen Zille, these will cover "almost every ward" in the province and government will subsidise "limited free" access for citizens.

Joshi says the roughly 16 000km network will consist of a combination of existing and new infrastructure. "We will work with local service providers – like Wireless Access Providers' Association members – as well as with wholesale providers, to leverage existing infrastructure and where build is required, we will build."
National example
Joshi says nationally, it is well known broadband is crucial for the economy. "There is research by the World Bank that shows a 10% increase in broadband penetration has a direct impact of up to 1.4% on a country's gross domestic product, so clearly greater broadband penetration will enable economic growth."

He hopes the Western Cape initiative will encourage other provinces to follow suit. "Others will now have the opportunity to replicate this public/private model. I am sure other provinces are looking into ways of increasing broadband penetration and we would be keen to share our learning and effect similar projects elsewhere."
Commenting on the Western Cape's project, ICT veteran Adrian Schofield says the planned proliferation of WiFi in particular is a good solution when it comes to getting connectivity into the hands of citizens across the spectrum and small business in particular.

He expects politics might stand in the way of other provinces – like SA's economic hub Gauteng – following suit. "The difference between the Western Cape and other provinces is really the underlying understanding among policy-makers of the contribution that connectivity makes to the development of the community. Zille has always displayed a better understanding and this [latest initiative] will be part of [the Western Cape] maintaining a clear lead [in terms of socio-economic upliftment through technology]."

He notes Gauteng has launched initiatives to advance connectivity, but – where the province should have been the one to introduce the ground-breaking advances – it has failed to make a meaningful change. "It is a pity that the province and cities up here have introduced some projects, but haven't achieved any visual improvement on the ground.

"The Johannesburg broadband network, for example, is taking shape – but not yet visible. The Gauteng province has a policy plan, but again there is no connectivity on the ground, so to speak."

He says the Western Cape initiative is promising, but the proof will ultimately be in the pudding. "I sincerely hope the Western Cape initiative demonstrates as quickly as possible the value of making this work. Then at least SA will have a real live example for other [provinces] to follow."

Neotel will also offer voice, virtual private network and other communication services to local small and large businesses, government departments, and institutions and households in the Western Cape as it expands its wireless and fibre network.
For Zille's State of the Province address, which outlines the province's latest broadband expansion plans, click here.
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