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Joburg ignites free Wi-Fi hotspots to entrench new normal

With over 1 000km of fibre optic wire laid out across all quadrants of Johannesburg, the City has connected 84 free Wi-Fi hotspots between Region A and G in a bid to optimise the use of technology to improve the general quality of life of its residents.

Joburg’s free Wi-Fi hotspots offer each single device 500MB of data a day, allowing users to surf and download at a speed of 5MBps.

It’s hoped this feat will improve municipal services and drive economic growth, particularly in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown, which have fostered a “new digital normal” for socialising, conducting business, as well as working and studying.

The new normal has prompted the City to revisit the rollout of free Wi-Fi as a priority on an equal footing with other essential services such as the provision of water and electricity. “Especially if we are to revive our local economy and socio-economic development post the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Cllr Jolidee Matongo, the MMC of Finance.

The free Wi-Fi hotspots programme was re-launched on Sunday, 13 September in Braamfontein, Joburg’s largest student and youth hub. It forms the backbone of the Smart City initiative, aimed at providing high-speed broadband connectivity for all residents of Johannesburg. It’s believed the rollout of free Internet connectivity will enable Joburg to compete comparatively with international peers from across the globe and to stay ahead of the curve on the African continent.

“The City has demonstrated its commitment to assist residents who have limited access to the Internet – a barrier to economic opportunities – by allocating R40 million from the 2020/21 Budget to the roll-out of free Wi-Fi hotspots to even hostels, flats, student villages and old age homes,” Cllr Matongo explains. This is done to give residents free access to municipal services, economic opportunities and academic materials though online platforms.

All of the 84 active free Wi-Fi hotspots run on solar power and are manned by the City’s broadband network entity, the Metropolitan Trading Company (MTC).

Cllr Matongo says regular daily health checks are conducted on the hotspots to ensure efficient service and many of them are in areas with surveillance cameras to monitor criminal activity.

“The hotspots that are already alive across the City are being accessed by up to 6 000 devices, and future enhancements include the implementation of analytics which will ensure insightful reporting on the usage of the hotspots,” says the MMC.