Fancy some interwebs with your sugary soft drink? Coca-Cola and UK-based telecoms company BT Global Services have announced a partnership to bring free WiFi to rural communities in South Africa via a plan to install routers inside the soft drink company’s vending machines.

Apparently access to the internet is free as long as you’re in range, and you don’t need to buy anything from the machine to get online.

Two pilot projects using the connected Coke machines have been running in the Eastern Cape and Mpumalanga at sites that are popular and easily accessible to residents. BT Global Services will provide connectivity to each Coca-Cola vending machine as well as design, support and business training.

The Sasol Integrated Energy Centre in Qunu, Eastern Cape was chosen for its close proximity to a taxi rank which attracts a lot of people and Thokozane Fast Food in Bushbuckridge , Mpumalanaga was also chosen for its proximity to places with a lot of foot traffic. Users don’t need to buy a drink to use the WiFi.

“The initiative forms part of Coca-Cola’s commitment to building sustainable communities by empowering the members of these communities.,”said David Visser, chief information officer at Coca-Cola South Africa. “We believe that by giving them access to free WiFi we will enable students and school children in the area to increase their knowledge through research while also giving entrepreneurs and small business owners in the community the opportunity to manage some of their business aspects online.”

There’s no word as to how many machines will eventually become part of this unusual network.

[Source – BT Global Services. Image – CC Flickr Ryan Fung]