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ANALYSIS: The meaning of life in the internet age – an analysis of Khayelitsha/Mitchell’s Plain broadband roll out

March 29, 2013
Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in the Internet Age

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in the Internet Age

Residents of the greater Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain area can anticipate a different kind of growth and development in their communities over the course of the next 2 – 10 years.

Cape Town’s broadband infrastructure project, as well as last mile connectivity is gathering momentum, as officials from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) are busy coordinating due diligence reports and stakeholder participation in the roll out of the broadband mesh project for these communities.

Residents of the city’s largest township communities, Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain, can brace themselves to take full advantage of the benefits of cheaper and more accessible internet.

A wireless mesh network uses a series of routers, or radio wave connected switches to link computers and phones to a common network in order to send and receive telephone calls and data.

The last mile connection was the link between a consumers’ phone or computer to the telecommunications network and is currently monopolised by telecoms giant, Telkom (the city has confirmed that Telkom has asked to use part of the network, which could also bring down the cost of broadband).

Amongst the many benefits listed by industry experts, the potential to drive economic growth and jobs stands out as the most significant for these communities, as many residents struggle for find hope for a better future.

The City of Cape Town has invested R150-million in broadband infrastructure and over the next seven to 10 years it is expected that the province-backed project will cost R1.3-billion. Since the city began installing broadband on its own lines, it has saved R25-million on its communication costs, Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille said last year. At one point the city had an annual communications bill of more than R100-million, she said.

The authorities say that, in addition to improving the municipality’s high-speed data communications and making internet services widely accessible, the broadband infrastructure will be the key to driving economic growth and development.

Supporting the City’s investment into universal broadband internet infrastructure is a study by the World Bank which found that 1.4% growth is recorded for every 10% increase in broadband penetration.

Western Cape minister for Economic Development, Alan Winde has also been quoted to say “It (broadband) will also increase the competitiveness of the Western Cape by bringing us on par with our competitors in the developed world, the developing world and the rest of Africa, securing our relevance in a world economy that is being increasingly driven by global networks and broadband connections,” Winde said.

Demetri Qually, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for corporate services, says the Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain areas are a high priority for the city because the existing telecommunications infrastructure there is unreliable and cannot cost-effectively meet the requirements of the city or the provincial government. “To this end, the city is currently undertaking a feasibility study in partnership with the US Trade and Development Agency which will examine the various options and benefits of making wireless internet available in these areas.”

During former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s visit to Cape Town last year, the US Trade and Development Agency signed an agreement for a grant of about R2.5-million to fund research into the “prospective benefits” of providing wireless internet to residents of Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha.

During this financial year, broadband will be rolled out to city-owned buildings in Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Ndabeni and the southern suburbs and we should also see the establishment of a broadband leadership council, which was supported with a R12 milllion budget allocation in the 2012/13 annual (provincial) budget.

Many challenges still lie ahead, as the city and provincial government have set themselves an ambitious target to give citizens in every town and village in the province access to affordable broadband infrastructure at a minimum network speed of 1000Mbps (megabits per second) by 2030, whilst many industry insiders have also pointed out the need for more to be done to educate the community about the broadband mesh project, as well as how to utilise internet and/or take advantage of the opportunities available through technology.

The mesh roll out in Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain is expected to be completed by early 2015.

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