In today’s day and age, it has become commonplace to see a majority of businesses and restaurants offering free WiFi to its customers. It comes down to the fact that offering free WiFi is a fantastic way to attract possible consumers to many establishments; in fact, it has become a powerful advantage for businesses alike. These can range from book stores, to coffee shops, to fancy eateries.

The Internet has become the thing that shapes modern life. People expect it to be at their fingertips for easy access at any point throughout the day. This holds true not only amongst business professionals, but anyone who is in need of social media usage, entertainment, or surfing the web. What then happens when there is free Wifi available everywhere, not just at your fancy restaurant but everywhere you go? Great idea, right.

This is exactly how we felt, when we heard about Project Isizwe. Project Isizwe is behind the free WiFi project in Tshwane and their business model is to make internet accessible to everyone living in South Africa, they facilitate the rollout of Free WiFi in public spaces in low-income communities, with a core focus on connectedness for the purpose of education.

Project Isizwe, recently had a Rooftop launch party on one of Pretoria’s rooftops, overseeing the city with guests who are optimistic about the free WiFi project and the change this could possibly bring to businesses and homes in the city.

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As a members of the Tshwane district, the benefits of having a free and public wireless zone are intrinsic to our mode of operating. A public internet connection means that there is one more place where we can connect to a world in which we feel comfortable, where we can research, find the closest good restaurant, look at pictures from our friends’ adventures, and find out quickly whether Traffic will hit at the next intersection without using up megabytes on our data plans.

But aside from allowing people to check in on Foursquare or send that essential email, there are many other benefits to having a free public Wi-Fi zone. Recently, as we have been revisiting towns whose WiFi-zones were implemented, and also talking to towns eager to put in their own zone, we have discovered some real benefits to free public internet access:

Disaster Relief:

Access to internet access on a public scale would help the spread of information on a large scale and enable the quick information transfer. Considering there are already about 2,000 social organizations that monitor and alerts members on crime and disaster issues. The free WiFi enables more connectedness amongst communities and improved joint effort to manage disaster and create a network of support for all involved.

Bolstering innovation:

Expanding the number of internet users means expanding the market for internet devices — that’s one of the reasons tech giants including Microsoft and Google support the public access plans around the globe — and opening the way for more experimentation and innovation in that marketplace. Access to the internet means creativity in the form of experimentation of use, which could lead to innovation on a scale that can hardly be imagined by anyone. Public free WiFi access enabled Baby monitor products to be developed freely without limitation in first world countries, and this is also a trend that is expected with this project being rolled out in Tshwane.

Education and Digital Literacy:

Students have to drive at times 10 or 20 miles to idle outside of a closed library and use its Wi-Fi. We have also heard of people buying pizza from a restaurant with free Wi-Fi just so they can check their email. A free and public zone would always be running, and would not necessitate a pizza purchase (although it can still be a benefit to businesses within the zone if people become hungry while using the internet!) It would allow students to find a place where they can do their homework close to home, and where others can check their email, or even apply for a job.

Tourism and Town Promotion:

Towns around the world that have already implemented the Free public Wifi Zones are recognized as towns that are “cool” and “hip”. When tourists are able to show their loved ones pixels of the world they are experiencing, with their iPhone dings an announcement of a free wireless signal as they drive through. That free zone, gives them a motivation to stop and explore the town more, and also allows the town to be recognized as a forward-thinking place, where new ideas and technology are welcomed.

In addition to helping to bridge the digital divide and becoming a communication tool during a disaster, improve education and tourism, a Wi-FI zone can send a signal that a town is informed forward-thinking, and ready to welcome positive change.
We look forward to the development that comes with the free WiFi project. To check Coverage and the roll out phase of the project, check the Free Internet Zone Map Online.