18/05/09. More and more school children are using the internet. Picture: Damaris Helwig

Cape Town - Free internet is on its way to some of the Western Cape’s poorest neighbourhoods.

Economic Development and Tourism MEC Alan Winde announced on Thursday that three as-yet-to-be-selected communities would benefit from a new R3-million broadband project to be completed by next year.

The neighbourhoods would get free access to high-speed wireless internet, which Winde said should run at about 1 megabyte per second (the current entry-level for most paying users).

Usage would be limited, but institutions such as schools would be given unlimited bandwidth.

However, the project is still in its early stages. The department is accepting proposals from local non-profit organisations on how to manage the service.


“It is our intention to reach as many residents as possible. The impact will be proposal-dependent,” said Winde.

The R3m project is just the start, as the department plans to use the pilot project to drive forward plans to offer affordable wireless options across the province.

“The World Bank estimates that every 10 percent increase in high-speed internet connections in developing countries results in a 1.3 percent increase in economic growth. Access to the internet is a key tool in job creation,” said Winde.

But IT expert Arthur Goldstuck had his doubts about the project.

“At face value, it is superb… It will bring communications empowerment to the poorest of the poor, and could serve as a model for national government. However, there is little information on how this will be achieved.”

He said it was one thing providing free internet but it was another to have the tools and means to do so.

“When introducing an initiative of this nature, there must be both a supportive environment and an ecosystem in place.” - Cape Argus