Wi-Fi at a walking distance: Project Isizwe

Established in 2013, Project Isizwe launched in Pretoria with the simple yet ambitious goal of bringing free Wi-Fi within walking distance of every South African. A product of meaningful private and public sector partnership, the project has set up thousands of free Wi-Fi hotspots throughout South Africa.

Compared to other African countries, internet connection in South Africa costs significantly more—costing between 7% and 20% of a family’s income. For this reason, Project Isizwe found it necessary to set up free hubs for internet access in one of South Africa’s capital cities, Pretoria, with a population over 2.1 million.

When it started in 2013, the project only had 35 Wi-Fi hotspots with a 250 megabyte daily limit for each device. Thanks to a partnership between the government, telecommunication companies, and local NGOS, the project today has 1,050 free Wi-Fi hotspots with a 500 megabyte daily allowance. Local companies provide the necessary labor and bandwidth at a discounted rate, and the project coordinates with municipal and city governments to subsidize free internet access to community centers such as schools, clinics and libraries. To enhance the relevance of these new hotspots, local NGOs have developed online digital literacy programs. As a result of this hard work and collaboration, Project Isizwe has had three million unique users with 600,000 unique users per month and 333,000 people connecting to the net every day!

Project Isizwe does not stop at providing free Wi-Fi access. The NGO recognizes that digital literacy and access to resources are just as important as connection itself if users are going to gain the full social and economic benefits of internet connection. For this reason Project Isizwe has teamed up with several technology companies to enhance opportunities for internet users. When connecting to Project Isizwe’s Wi-Fi, users have access to online portals with information on education and job opportunities. These online portals have led 11,000 citizens to complete online digital literacy training and helped hundreds of others find employment. Additionally, Mozilla created an online platform for the project to connect low-income women with health and financial resources.

Project Isizwe is steadily reaching its goal of connecting low-income communities across South Africa to free Wi-Fi hubs. The NGO’s work flourishes thanks to its collaboration with community members, local government and business. Its success is further attributable to its recognition that meaningful internet access involves connecting new users with educational and employment opportunities. By following these simple principles, Project Isizwe has successfully connected millions to the web and provided economic opportunities to thousands in South Africa.

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1 World Connected
1 World Connected

1 World Connected is a research project that systematically compiles, analyses and disseminates information on connecting the unconnected.