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First 50 free Wi-Fi hotspots go live in Western Cape

First 50 free Wi-Fi hotspots go live in Western Cape.

The Western Cape Government and Neotel will this month launch the first 50 of 384 planned public access Wi-Fi hotspots across the province, aimed at speeding up the delivery of public services and boosting the local economy.

The 384 hotspots will strategically located to ensure maximum coverage for all citizens, with complete coverage set to be completed by 2019.

The Western Cape Government is the first South African provincial administration to undertake a connectivity project of this scale, and will be providing a hotspot in each ward.

Users will be provided with 300MB per month of free browsing on their first connection, and 250MB per month thereafter. A specialised content portal has also been devised which allows for unlimited browsing of government websites, as well as a digital literacy course.

Users of the Neotel Wi-Fi hotspots will also be able to top up at the lowest internet rates in South Africa, at just ZAR5 a day for up to 700MB, with the Western Cape Government saying this offering is more than 10 times cheaper than the entry level offering from a similar Wi-Fi provider.

To bolster usage, the Western Cape Government has introduced an Internet Champion Programme in partnership with Computers4Kids. The programme aims to train "Internet Champions" in local communities to deliver a digital literacy programme to the citizens at hotspots in order to ensure that the maximum number of residents sign up and can make the most of the service.

"Our number one priority is to grow the economy and create jobs, and Wi-Fi connectivity is an enabler in achieving just that," the Western Cape Government said.

"Access to the Internet makes e-services more accessible to communities that would otherwise not be able to utilise this new way of service delivery. This helps with the number of customers obtaining and paying for bills on time and being able to access information without increasing call volumes to a department call centre. These improvements in turn help to improve efficiency of service delivery and enhance the quality of life."

Recent research commissioned by the Western Cape's Department of Economic Development and Tourism found that 60.3% of Western Cape residents are using their phones to search for health-related queries.

"We've been seeing shorter queues at our clinics, which suggests more residents are indeed turning to the internet for basic medical questions," the provincial government said. "This is saving them travel money and lost time at work. It's also reducing demand on stretched government medical services."

The Wi-Fi hotspots will be mounted on the external walls of the buildings, and will point out towards the nearby community. Depending on topography, the hotspots have a range of up to 200m depending on the environment.

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