Vodacom Central Region, covering the Free State and Northern Cape provinces, has switched on 21 new 3G and 4G enabled base station sites in deep rural areas across the province during March and April alone. Deployed across 21 villages, these base stations will provide connectivity in some of the big local municipalities in Free State and Northern Cape provinces for the first time. The new sites will deliver fast internet connectivity and connect the unconnected, particularly in deep rural areas of the province to ensure inclusion for all.
The new sites in Ubuntu, Joe Morolong, Siyancuma, Tokologo, Mangaung, Tswaing, Ga-Segonyana, Kagisono-Molopo, Dikgatlong, Matjhabeng, Sol Plaatjie, Dihlabeng, Naledi Local Municipalities are part of Vodacom’s Rural Coverage Acceleration Programme, aimed at expanding network coverage for people who live in deep rural areas of South Africa to augment the good work that Vodacom regions have done in ramping up network infrastructure outside of urban areas over many years.
GSMA research shows that while the availability of high-speed broadband is critical to deep rural development, deep rural communities are lagging behind in terms of broadband connectivity, excluding many from digital transformation and access to the digital economy.
“We have embarked on a crucial network investment drive in our province as part of the rural network expansion programme so that we address coverage gaps in deep rural and township areas,” Tsatsi Mthimunye, Managing Executive for Vodacom Central Region, said.
“The new sites are going to provide faster internet speeds, greater capacity and help to bridge the digital divide between urban and rural areas of Free State and Northern Cape provinces. This is part of our vision to make sure that we connect everyone whether they live in the cities, townships or in the rural areas, which requires investment.”
The region has spent over R207 million to maintain and upgrade network infrastructure across the province during the 2020/21 financial period during which time a total of 40 new sites across the region.
The region has spent R67 million in 2020/21 financial year deploying new sites in deep rural areas in Bethlehem, Fouriesburg, Clocolan, Fauresmith, Griekwastad, Bothabille, Kroonstad, Portsmaburg, Jagersfontein, Parys, Qwa-Qwa, Prieska, Kgalagadi Theunissen. They plan to invest in more sites in the next financial period. All the sites were built by black-owned SMMEs, part of the SMME Incubation programme, aimed at developing and supporting black-owned and managed SMMEs in the Free State and Northern Cape provinces.
Vodacom’s commitment to accelerate network coverage for people who live in deep rural areas has yielded a significant positive societal impact. Within months of Vodacom having deployed new 3G and 4G sites, school-going kids can now access the internet for the first time whilst those who are actively looking for jobs are using their smartphones can apply for jobs over the internet. They have the option of using Vodacom’s e-School and jobs portals that are both zero-rated for Vodacom subscribers. Those who previously had to travel long distances to do banking are doing this on their devices from the comfort of their homes.
There is no doubt of the correlation between increased internet access and economic growth, so by providing connectivity in rural areas of our country, we are playing a crucial role in driving South Africa’s economy.
The World Bank study concludes that a 10 percentage point increase in fixed broadband penetration could increase Gross Domestic Product growth by 1.21% in developed economies and 1.38% in developing ones. Thus, the deployment of networks in rural areas will help to enhance socio-economic development in rural areas and access to the internet will help rural dwellers access services such as eHealth, eEducation and eCommerce taking South Africa Further Together.