Google Bringing Free Public Internet To Underserved Areas Of South Africa

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli
free public internet
Google has launched free public internet services that underserved communities in parts of Cape Town and surrounding areas will be able to access. Nitin Gajria, Google Africa director, announces the Google Station initiative at a Google South Africa event in Johannesburg on Nov. 7, 2019. Image supplied by Google

Underserved communities in Cape Town will be able to access free public internet through an initiative funded and organized by Google in Africa’s most developed economy.

Google wants to collaborate with local internet service providers to provide free internet for thousands of South Africans in 125 public spaces across Cape Town including Langa, Khayelitsha and Gugulethu, according to a Google blog post.

The public internet service is known as Google Station. Google expects to partner with internet service providers like Cape Town-based ThinkWiFi to convert fiber connections into quality Wi-Fi internet-enabled zones in public areas where people can connect to the internet wirelessly.

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Free public internet in the Cape Flats

Google’s free internet initiative has targeted an area on the outskirts of Cape Town known as the Cape Flats — one of the most underserved communities in South Africa where informal settlements have proliferated.

The South African government’s poor service delivery in the area has created a situation where unemployment and crime rates are high. Google is hopeful that free internet will empower people within these communities with more opportunities.

“By gaining access to information via the internet, we hope that people in these communities will get a more equal opportunity to learn and develop and live more empowered lives,” said Nitin Gajria, Google Africa director, in the blog post.

Google Station is now available in over more than 100 locations in the Cape Flats including Langa, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Delft, Elsies River and Philippi.

South Africa’s internet penetration rate is below the global average (57 percent) — 54 percent of South Africans have access to the internet. Google says that’s one of the obstacles to greater adoption of Google services in South Africa.

South Africa is the sixth country to launch Google Station, which is designed for countries with rapidly growing populations, following successful launches of the free internet initiative in Nigeria, India, Indonesia, Mexico, and Thailand, ChannelAfrica reports.

Google launched the service in Nigeria in July 2018, collaborating with Nigerian internet providers to launch free internet in 200 public spaces across five cities.

Google’s free internet initiative was first launched in India in 2015 and it has become a way of life in the Asian country.

With more than 400 Google Station public internet access points available in train stations and other public areas, more than 8 million people now use the service.

With speeds faster than average paid services in India, people have used Google’s free internet initiative to study online. Google shares the story of someone called Shrinath, a porter at the Ernakulam Junction train station in Kerala, who used the free internet to study online and prepare for the Kerala Public Service entrance examination.