Broadband access is seen by many as a stumbling block towards growing an economy, but what good is broadband to the masses if people don’t receive the right digital literacy skills?

This is exactly the problem that the executive mayor of Johannesburg Parks Tau wants to address, as he announced plans to create a number of digital literacy training centres in and around the city.

“Under a new partnership with the University of Johannesburg, groups of young people will have access to our Digital Ambassadors programme. Over the coming months, as we accelerate the rollout of our free public Wi-Fi hotspots announced last year, we will also deploy 3 000 young people, grouped as micro-companies, to provide digital literacy training. This is the bridge we are building across the digital divide,” he said during his annual State of the City address.

Tau went on to say that 50% of Johannesburg’s 4.8 million residents have no regular access to the Internet – but the city is in the process of correcting that.

“The broadband network we as a City have developed is a public asset. It allows us to reindustrialize in a way that builds Joburg as a city, able to compete and lead in both the old industries that are rapidly digitizing and in the new weightless economy of digital services.”

As part of the plan, Johannesburg has already started to install many WiFi access points in Braamfontein, and Tau said that the suburb will be “blanketed” with the technology.

“Digital access is becoming as much an equity issue in our society as access to water and electricity. We are in the process of blanketing Braamfontein with WiFi that provides high-speed broadband access, parts of which are live right now,” he explained.

Tau added that not only will the WiFi connectivity provide internet access to thousands, but it will also demonstrate how it can create opportunities.

“This goes beyond hotspot access at specific buildings and demonstrates how public WiFi can work across a wide area. In this mecca of youthful activity, WiFi will become the showcase for how subsidised access to Internet means access to opportunity.”

[Image – CC Nico Roets]

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.