The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has switched on a JL Dube Broadband Highsite in Vezokuhle Primary School, Edendale, in the Umsunduzi municipality.
The JL Dube Broadband Highsite aims to bring free WiFi to the communities of Pietermaritzburg.
Launched on July 9 by Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, the site leverages South Africa (SA) Connect, the Broadband Infraco long-haul fibre backbone and Dube iConnect Internet service provider services and infrastructure.
The Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, along with its entities, namely Dube Trade Port and Moses Kotane Institute of Technology, joined forces with Broadband Infraco and Mzansi ComNet to roll out out a cost-effective model of broadband infrastructure.
The long-term vision is to turn KwaZulu-Natal into a smart province through digital infrastructure, with an initial six hotspot sites connected to broadband.
Vezokuhle Primary School and surrounding communities; the Edendale Gateway Clinic; the Umsunduzi Library; the Umgungundlovu Precinct; and the Umsunduzi Taxi Rank and Langalibalele Street, are now the first group of live hotspots in a programme that will ultimately connect 20 500 hotpots throughout KwaZulu-Natal over the next five years.
There are few municipalities that stand to benefit during the initial phase of the roll-out, including Umsunduzi, Umgungundlovu, Amajuba, Umhlathuze, King Cetshwayo, eThekwini, uThukela and Kokstad.
Other municipalities will follow as the remainder of the province is connected.
The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government is using the existing contract with SA Connect and Broadband Infraco to provide the backbone for broadband access, incorporating an advanced, high-speed metropolitan ethernet network, voice and broadband and digital links.
“As we roll out broadband throughout the province – township- and rural-based youth- and women-owned cooperatives and small, medium-sized and microenterprises (SMMEs) will be Internet service providers,” the provincial government said during the livestreamed launch.
“Our plans involves teaching them how to install and maintain telecommunications infrastructure, [while] others will be empowered to sell affordable voice and data services. These will be much cheaper than what is offered by the big mobile operators.”
Over the next five years, the free WiFi hotpots and JL Dube Broadband are expected to promote significant socioeconomic development, including the creation of two-million jobs and 2 000 self-sustainable SMMEs, as well as enabling access to affordable Internet for 80% of the population.