JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Thermal coal miner Glencore Coal South Africa (SA) has launched a free WiFi initiative, which will allow members of two of the company’s host communities, Phola and Ogies, to access 500 MB/d per person for educational, economic and leisure purposes.
The initiative currently comprises six hotspots, each able to cater for a maximum of 250 people in a radius of about 150 m.
Glencore Coal SA community development manager Thys Marx tells Mining Weekly Online that the onboarding and surfing experience is “very pleasant” as the data line is capable of delivering 80 Mb/s.
He adds that the company had identified Internet access an enabler and has sought to address this by establishing several WiFi hotspots in communities near its operations.
Marx explains that 1 GB of data costs between R100 and R150 depending on the service provider – a significant amount of money for something that is not considered a necessity (in terms of the hierarchy of needs), especially for someone who is unemployed.
Nonetheless, he points out that Internet access is becoming increasingly important in everyday life, a point that has been endorsed by no less than the United Nations, which has targeted increased access to information and communications technology (ICT) and affordable Internet access as a core part of achieving its Sustainable Development Goals.
Marx notes that the Phola and Ogies communities are part of the first phase of the WiFi initiative and that the company is considering WiFi hotspots in Middelburg and Belfast in the second phases.
He says the company identified strategically important locations in Phola and Ogies to establish the hotspots, specifically areas where community members were known to congregate, including the Makause Combined school, a library, a community sports field near the local police station, the Phola and Ogies taxi ranks and a youth centre.
Marx adds that five additional hotspots are in the process of being established in Ogies, including at an informal kiosk, and that those should be operational within the next week.
Marx explains that some of the benefits of enabling Web access, are access to educational and research material, access to banking and other financial services, access to career portals and recruiters, and access to news and communication platforms.
In addition to enabling individual research and economic activity, the WiFi’s landing page would include information on Glencore Coal SA’s initiatives related to local economic development, corporate social investment and career opportunities as well a link to Glencore Coal SA’s enterprise & supplier development portal which would outline economic opportunities and foster closer ties to its communities.
Further, Marx notes that, in future, the landing page will also include links to pre-recorded educational material, to assist secondary school leaners with difficult subjects such as mathematics and sciences.
He stresses that supplying basic ICT infrastructure is not meant to be seen as a trendy initiative that speaks to the zeitgeist, rather it should be recognised as an enabler that empowers community members to pursue, and engage in, activities to better themselves and their neighbours.