Bandwidth across the world has become a bit of a commodity, and it seems like almost everyone is scrambling for a piece of the very lucrative pie. If said bandwidth can be made available for free, it is an even better deal for consumers – and that is exactly where online classifieds website Gumtree comes in.

eBay’s South African affiliate recently entered into a partnership with Alan Knott-Craig Jnr’s Project Isizwe to strengthen the project’s free WiFi offering across the country. Project Isizwe’s free WiFi has first been rolled out to the City of Tshwane, and hopes to connect a million people by the end of the month.

Gumtree’s managing director Johan Nel explained to that while Project Isizwe is making great strides in the field, they were in need of funding in order to continue.

“The relationship was only formalised a few months ago. Project Isizwe has been active for a significant time but were in need of funds to complete their very important work. Gumtree stepped in to provide the needed funding, and now has a permanent place on the Tobetsa portal,” he said.

The partnership between Gumtree and Project Isizwe might seem like an unlikely one, but the classifieds service has a vested interest in helping to connect as many people as possible. The website has a fairly extensive jobs portal, and the more rural communities that have access to free internet, the better their chances of finding suitable employment.

“Gumtree’s job section appears on the Tobetsa portal – an educational portal that is accessible to users even after they have reached their data cap. This means that we are connecting job seekers with jobs, as well as gaining extra traffic to the site,” Nel explains.

Nel is eager to explain the dynamics of the partnership, saying that since Gumtree is purely online it’s important to introduce the next generation to both the Internet and the Gumtree brand. And since Project Isizwe is specifically cantered around schools, the funding agreement is mutually beneficial.

“It may not pay dividends right away, but the more Internet users South Africa has, the more everyone stands to benefit.”

The agreement also won’t be a flash in the pan deal, as Gumtree notes that it is in the partnership for the long haul. The website receives about nine million visitors a month, and Nel really wants to expand that figure into a much larger one. “In order for us to expand, we need to expand the Internet population.”

Usually when companies enter into partnerships, there is a flurry of advertising to promote each other’s products, but this one will be slightly less obtrusive.

A link to the Gumtree Jobs section will appear on the homepage of the Isizwe portal, Tobetsa, but there are no advertising that will interrupt or spoil the user’s browsing experience. “We wanted to offer browsers something useful.”

Nel concludes by reiterating Gumtree’s commitment to connecting rural communities around the country to the free WiFi offering. He mentions that when they visited various townships, they noticed hundreds of handwritten signs placed on fences and lamp posts – people advertising rooms for rent, or cattle for sale, or their services.

“We want to formalise those businesses and adverts and expand their client base. As they grow, we grow.”

[Image – Shutterstock]
Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.