Live in Cape Town? Helen Zille wants to get you online. The provincial Premiere Helen Zille just made a few announcements in her state of the province address – a transcript of which is here – that outline plans for 384 free hotspots which will cover “almost every ward” and offer “every citizen… ‘limited free'” access over next two to three years.

The network is part of a larger plan to install WiFi hotspots at every government building – including schools, hospitals and administrative centres – bringing the total number up to 2 000. Infrastructure for the project will be provided by Neotel.

“Neotel has therefore generously committed to funding the infrastructure rollout of 384 WiFi hotspots, using Western Cape government buildings,” Zille said, “Which will cover almost every ward in the province. Our government will be subsidising the free portion of citizens’ Internet access.”

The current roll out schedule aims to have all sites connected with minimum speeds of 10Mbps by May 2016 with that increasing to fibre-optic connectivity to each site by August 2018 giving 90% of sites 100Mbps speeds and the remaining 10% getting 1Gbps speeds.

The 384 hotspots will be rolled out systematically over a four year period as Neotel’s fibre network expands over the province with the eventual plan to have hotspots in almost all of the wards in the province with the Western Cape subsidising a limited amount of free WiFi at the locations.

Zille reckons that these hotspots “will help reduce the digital divide, make economic opportunities more accessible and generate new business opportunities”.

There’s also going to be a new tech hub built along the lines of Bandwidth Barn, again provided with money from Neotel. From Zille’s speech:

“Neotel has also committed to spending appropriately 25% of the value of their contract with local companies. They will use a number of small businesses as well as local labour during the construction of the network, creating jobs throughout the province.

They have also agreed to provide seed funding for the establishment of a Western Cape Broadband Foundation which will focus on leveraging private sector contributions and funding to help deliver innovative broadband-related services as widely as possible.


[Via TechCentral, Image – Shutterstock]