Plans are afoot to have all 4m citizens of Johannesburg connected to free Wi-Fi within five years.
Zolani Matabese, head of broadband for the City of Johannesburg, said a thousand hotspots for access to the Internet would be installed around the municipality by year-end.
But the ultimate plan is to enable all the city’s citizens to connect to free Wi-Fi.
“The goal is to offer free Wi-Fi to each and every person in the city,” Matabese said.
“It is now a human right to have access to the Internet, so we’ve rolled out free Wi-Fi at BRT (bus rapid transport) stations, at some of our rates offices and at theatres, which allow people access to 300MB/day,” Matabese said.
Matabese, speaking at Johannesburg’s first annual Smart City Day over the weekend, said that the infrastructure was in place for Johannesburg to be a smart city by 2020.
“We are well on our way to becoming a smart city — we have broadband infrastructure and 1 150km of fibre-optic cable which connects every region in Jo’burg,” said Matabese.
Matabese said that the next step would be to educate citizens who were not computer and Internet literate on how they could use it.
“We have the ability to get Wi-Fi to people and we have a system to put in place for e-government strategies. Now it is about how do you then cultivate that ecosystem,” he said.
Matabese added that being a smart city would empower the public and create a better means of communication between government and the residents.
“We have the ability to connect everyone in the city to the Internet in the next three to five years. The question is then how do you then get them to use the technology, and that takes longer and once that happens people are able do things like reporting service delivery issues better,” Matabese said.
“Studies have shown that having access to the Internet improves your GDP. The first thing is to make sure it is available, that it is of reliable quality and good quality, and then it is to get the programmes to get people to utilise it,” said Matabese.
Matabese said that it was an ambitious goal to have all citizens of Johannesburg connected to the Internet but he believed that it is possible.
“If we encourage people to use the Internet it would benefit them in numerous ways whether that is applying for a job or keeping up to date with what it going on in the world,” he said.