This new approach empowers farmworkers with tools to be part of the Digital Revolution underway. Image: Supplied.

JOHANNESBURG – Vodacom has partnered with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. 

As a result of this partnership, Vodacom moved all farm workers using 2G feature phones to 3G devices and opened a new world of the internet and technology to farm workers in the area. 

Wakkerstroom is now the first smartphone only town in SA according to Vodacom. 

Vodacom said in a statement: "This is a model the network provider hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks. 

"This is in a move that provides meaningful societal impact for low income earners who eke out a living as farm workers by empowering them with necessary tools to be part of the Digital Revolution underway.

"Vodacom working with BPG Langfontein is pioneering an approach to connect people in rural communities to faster mobile networks and devices, so they can take full advantage of the benefits of the Digital Revolution."

Vodacom said that Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province. The town is on the KwaZulu-Natal border. 

Zakhele Jiyane, managing executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga said: “There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people. 

We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the Digital Revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.”

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. 

"Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Providing network connectivity for people who reside in rural areas is a high priority for Vodacom and is part of our vision to make sure that we connect everyone no matter where they live. Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this commitment.

Broadband penetration has transformative power and is an enabler for economic and social growth and as such, makes it an essential tool for empowering people in rural areas. The World Bank study concludes that a 10 percentage point increase in fixed broadband penetration could increase GDP growth by 1.21% in developed economies and 1.38% in developing ones.

For the next phase of this project, Vodacom is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community with its CSI tools in areas of education, gender based violence and health

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