The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
With President Jacob Zuma and his allies at the centre of widespread allegations of state capture and general self-enrichment, it is hard not to feel depressed about the state of the South African government. Cheer up! As Alan Knott-Craig demonstrates, there are success stories that should give us all cause to believe that things will get better. The South African entrepreneur and author reveals that Project Isizwe – focused on creating access to cyberspace across South Africa and in particular helping low income communities – has notched up another award. It would be easy to credit Knott-Craig for its success. After all, the project’s founder is a Chartered Accountant with extensive successful experience in business. But Knott-Craig is at pains to note Tshwane’s local administrations – past and present – have done most of the work here. In an innovative funding model, litter is being used to generate the money to cover the costs of the WiFi. As Knott-Craig says: How cool is that?! – Jackie Cameron
By Alan Knott-Craig Jr*
Project Isizwe this week won two more international awards related to Tshwane Free WiFi, bringing the 2016 awards tally to three:
- World Wi-Fi Day Award for Most Innovative City or Government Program to bridge the Digital Divide (Liverpool, UK)
- WiFi NOW award for Affordable Connectivity (London, UK)
- Africa Fire award for Tobetsa & WiFi TV (Mexico City, Mexico)
We’ve won THREE international awards in 2016 alone!
How cool is that? What a privilege it has been to be part of this story…
Credit must be given to the previous Tshwane ANC administration, led by Executive Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa, for having the vision to break new ground. The Tshwane WiFi network is becoming a global success story, a rare shining light for SA to be proud of.
The new DA political leadership in Tshwane presents an even greater opportunity. Executive Mayor Solly Msimanga brings a fresh drive for fiscal responsibility to the City, giving us the challenge to find a sustainable financial model for Tshwane WiFi.
It would have been easy for us to rest on our laurels, but now we are forced to up our game and win their trust.
South Africa is heading into troubled economic waters. It’s lazy thinking to expect endless subsidies from government, even for something so patently important as free WiFi in poor communities.
Solly and the new Tshwane leadership has sparked us into life to be the first organisation to establish a commercially sustainable model for municipal free WiFi.
By April 2017 we’ll be generating R3million per month to fund the ongoing running costs of Tshwane WiFi.
We are on track with two models already, one of which entails providing free WiFi vouchers in exchange for litter, and using the revenue from waste recycling to fund local free WiFi zones.
How cool is that? Where in the world is anyone innovating a model of free WiFi for litter?
If we manage to pull it off and the free WiFi movement will gather even more steam, and we’ll be winning new awards soon J.
It’s hard to believe that when we started in 2013 some people said free WiFi for the poor is the worst idea ever. Most people just ignored us.
In 2014, as Tshwane WiFi grew to 230 sites, some people made a joke of us. They openly jeered and predicted our demise.
In 2015, as Tshwane WiFi reached 750 sites, some people tried to discredit us. They attacked our model, they attacked our intentions.
It’s now 2016. Tshwane has over 1,000 free WiFi zones. 25% of buildings and 750,000 citizens are within walking distance of free WiFi, and over 2million devices have connected to Africa’s biggest municipal free WiFi network.
- Alan Knott-Craig Junior started his career as a CA and later co-founded or funded 17 companies in the telecoms, tech and media sector. He was the CEO of wireless ISP iBurst and spent a year at the helm of mobile social network Mxit. He is now combining his experience in technology with his commitment to building an Africa in which his daughters can be happy, with the launch of Project Isizwe, a non-profit organisation facilitating the roll-out of free Wi-Fi networks across Africa.