The provincial government must take urgent measures to bridge the digital divide between the insiders – those who have access to Wi-Fi and the internet – and the outsiders – those with no or little access. There needs to be a clear plan put on the table to roll out free broadband access in the province.
Our provincial economy is being stunted by the lack of access to free Wi-Fi and many cannot break out of the poverty trap without it.
The DA believes that every resident in every town and village should have access to affordable, high-speed broadband and have the necessary skills to make use of this. This is critical to access jobs, employment information, tender opportunities, details around internships and bursaries.
We need to become a forward-thinking province so that we can remain competitive in the global economy.
For every increased 10% of a population that has access to the internet, the economy grows by 1.3%. This will not only be a massive game changer to boost our economy but also a life changer for those who can access new opportunities.
I have submitted a legislature question to the Premier regarding the rollout of free Wi-Fi in the province.
Just last week, Nomahlubi Mabizela’s letter in the Daily Dispatch illustrated how it was cheaper for her to travel to Queenstown to use the internet there, than paying and using it at the library in Cathcart, where she lives.
A DA-investigation confirmed that it cost R8.60 for 15 minutes or R35 for an hour to use the internet at the Cathcart library. This service should be provided free by the provincial government.
According to the mid-year population estimates of Statistics SA, 35% of people in the Eastern Cape are under the age of 35 years, the highest in the country. Young people are growing up in the digital era. They are the digital generation who need access to the internet to do homework, study, start businesses and search for jobs.
In the Western Cape, the DA aims to have free Wi-Fi hotspots in all wards across the province in a roll-out over the next three years.
This financial year, the Western Cape government will spend R353-million to improve youth access to broadband and to provincial government’s e-learning platform.
The DA in the provincial legislature will be vigorously driving this issue to bring change to our province.
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