South Africa Connect

/sites/default/files/images/gcis/Laticia%20Masia-6796%20(1).jpg By Laticia Masia

As the world goes digital, and an interconnected global society emerges, the need for bridging the digital divide in South Africa has become more pressing.

Greater connectivity through the internet allows us to learn new skills and advance our abilities so that we can create opportunities that will unlock future jobs and drive our economy.

The endless supply of information that the internet offers also paves the way for a more inclusive information society and greater access to government services which is essential to a thriving democracy.

The reality however is that many South Africans are unable to access the internet due to high costs and lack of proper infrastructure. To address these challenges, the government is rolling out its flagship SA Connect broadband connectivity project to bring internet connectivity to more South Africans.

Through SA Connect government aims to provide affordable, stable, quality broadband services at efficient speeds. The project is targeting to connect at least 80percent of South African households to the internet within the next three years.

Our efforts to bridge the digital divide are gaining ground as Census 2022 revealed an upward trend in internet access. Approximately 79 percent of the country has some form of internet access while the number of households without internet access decreased from 64,8 percent in 2011 to 21,1percent in 2022.

Our success is largely attributed to Phase 1 of SA Connect which connected 970 government facilities, which include schools and healthcare facilities. The momentum continued with 5 479 households, 188 community Wi-Fi hotspots and over 7 000 government offices and police stations connected to the internet as of October 2023.

Government is confident that more communities will move into the digital age under Phase 2 of SA Connect. This phase targets the connection of 32 055 community Wi-Fi hotspots and the connectivity of 5 573 258 households by 2026.

We also aim to connect 18 520 schools, 5731 healthcare facilities, 949 libraries and Thusong centres, 567 SAPS sites and 8241 tribal authorities as part of the project’s social commitments. A total of 14 742 government sites are also targeted to improve the delivery and administration of government services.

The launch of Phase 2 of the SA Connect project in the Eastern Cape villages of Chitwa, Bhonga, Lugelweni and Dutyini in November 2023 showcased how access to the internet could transform our rural communities. The rollout of infrastructure in these remote villages helped connect over 500 households online, created employment opportunities for 120 skilled and semi-skilled individuals and contributed to overall socio-economic development in the area.

As more community Wi-Fi hotspots are rolled out, especially in rural areas, residents will be able to access information and opportunities through internet connectivity.

Through SA Connect’s use of shared network infrastructure, data costs are being significantly lowered. Citizens can access the internet from as little as R5 per gigabyte a day and R249 per month for unlimited internet access.

The project will also help advance employment creation with over 4 505 employment opportunities expected in the ICT industry. Employment opportunities include fibre installation, route survey, network design and service provisioning.

We encourage SMMEs, internet service providers and individuals to take hold of the opportunities that become available as we work towards developing and expanding our ICT sector.

In bridging the digital divide and connecting South Africans online we can position our society and economy for future development in the digital era.