Remarks by the Honorable Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Dr. Siyabonga Cwele at the Launch of Wi-Fi Rollout at Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality
15 April 2016
Thank you Program Director,
The Premier of the Eastern Cape Province, Honorable Phumulo Masualle
The Mayor of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality, Cllr Danny Jordaan
Our Local Councilors present,
Community Members of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Municipality,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured by this opportunity to address you this morning as we celebrate the launch of the rollout of free public Wi-Fi connectivity for the benefit of citizens of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. Today marks a day where ordinary citizens of the metro will have access to a fast and reliable internet connection on their mobile devices.
The connection to the internet we have provided to sites that have been connected today has become an essential resource in today’s modern economy that none of us can afford to live without. This launch of our free public Wi-Fi affirms our commitment as government to the National Development Plan’s vision of a robust information society and knowledge economy that is both inclusive and prosperous.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The ANC government through the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services has invested 6 million rand towards ensuring that this initiative is a success. We have already connected in Korsten the licensing department, the Customer Care Centre and the Public Library to free Wi-Fi. As we are gathered here today the community of Uitenhage will benefit from a connected Library and Customer Care Centre at the Municipal offices. These are part of 19 sites which will be connected throughout the Metro as a part of this initiative.
Let me announce that once you have connected to the free public Wi-Fi, you will be allocated 100mb per day on each device you connect at speeds of 10mb/s. These speeds are consistent with those benchmarked by our broadband policy, South Africa Connect.
This free public Wi-Fi rollout project is being implemented across 6 Metros is a part of Phase 1 of a bigger project announced by His Excellency President Jacob Zuma at the 2015 State of the Nation Address to connect all government institutions in the 8 districts to broadband. We have developed a business case for Phase 2 of the project to connect all the government institutions in the country. The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro will be covered by the implementation in this second phase of implementation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased that our young people as demonstrated by our learner who spoke today understand the value and endless benefits that come with having access to an internet connection. Access to the internet is the single most powerful tool we have in combating the inequality experienced in the delivery of quality education. A child with access to internet in Euitenhage has access to the same educational material as any child in the bigger cities and anywhere in the world.
Because as a government we understand that ensuring access to quality education for all our children is a necessary solution to the widespread unemployment, poverty and inequality we are facing as a nation, our broadband rollout project will prioritise connecting all schools and educational facilities such as this library to fast, reliable internet.
It must be understood that our continued investment in education is a deliberate effort by the ANC government aimed at bridging the digital divide by ushering in the paperless classroom to all our schools, particularly those in the previously disadvantaged areas and rural communities.
The ANC government is moving towards the paperless classroom that will enable teaching and learning through the use of tablets and other smart devices. We do not want our learners to carry heavy textbooks to school and our broadband rollout will do away with the challenges to delivering text books to schools. Today’s launch is a positive step towards this reality.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Wi-Fi that we have provided will have benefits far beyond assisting our learners around the community accessing educational material and content. Our young people can use the internet to access information about institutions of higher learning and even apply at universities. The University of the Witwatersrand was reported to have registered about 23 000 students on its online application system.
Unemployment is a real and present challenge for our young people. The struggle becomes even more depressing when money is required to seek employment as one must buy newspapers where adverts are placed, cater for printing costs to distribute CV’s and even pay for transport to interviews when resources are scarce. Access to the internet through the free public Wi-Fi we have provided will cut some of these costs and make it easier for the unemployed to look for work.
Beyond those who are seeking employment opportunities, access to the internet has positive benefits for local business people. I have had an opportunity to interact with a local business woman from the OR Tambo District who sells vegetables in her local community. She was a part of a project by her municipality to be provided with a connection to the internet. She told me she had been able to expand her business and was now selling airtime and electricity which give her more income. Her testimony was that access to an internet connection has made her life and that of her family to be far much better than it was before.
The people living in communities which have had access to Wi-Fi will attest that this resource has practical use even for their daily needs. I have accounts of community members connecting to the Wi-Fi and using the data to connect to relatives through WhatsApp and other social media sites. I am sure that you are all aware that you can now even make calls using the internet. I am confident this will ease the burden of the high costs to communicate.
As the ANC government continues to connect all government institutions to broadband, we are moving towards delivering most of the critical government services through online platforms. This will greatly reduce the queues that we experience at our frontline departments such as the Licensing Departments, Home Affairs and many others. The Department of Home Affairs has already taken a step towards this direction as we can now apply for ID’s and Passports in some banks. This is just the beginning of our e-government project that will bring government services closer to the people.
All these benefits that our people will enjoy are the result of a caring government which prioritises the needs of its citizens. Government under the leadership of the ANC is aware of the challenges that ordinary South Africans face which include amongst others rising food prices, job insecurity and generally high costs of living. This is why all our programmes are aimed at cushioning the poor by providing much needed relief while empowering them to be able to make a living for themselves.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This is a critical year in our democratic system where we go to the voting polls to mandate our local government to lead us. I would like to encourage everyone who has registered to vote to make it a point on the 3rd of August to exercise the hard earned democratic right to elect public representatives who care about your development.
This local government election year coincides with our commemoration of events and actions of struggle heroes and heroines who contributed to the struggle against the apartheid regime and its ultimate demise. These include amongst others the Soweto Students Uprising, the gruesome death of the young Solomon Mahlangu at the hands of apartheid, the women’s march to the union buildings against the unjust pass laws and the centenary of the University of Fort Hare.
The commemorations of these events should ignite within us a determination to actively participate in the processes our robust democracy and ensure that each and every one of us does not miss this opportunity to vote.
In conclusion, I am confident that the free public Wi-Fi we have provided will indeed change your lives.
I thank you.