Tshegofatso Sebitloane

On the 6th of May, the Free State provincial government in partnership with Cell C sealed their partnership at the Cell C Regional office, where Premier Ntombela accompanied by Mr Ramaema, the acting DG of the Premier and Mr Felix Mokoena the regional head of CellC’s business enterprise and public sector signed the contract which enables the rollout of free Public Access Wi-Fi across all municipalities.

The main purpose of the project is to enable everyone to have access to internet connection, as data rates in our country are extremely high. The Cell C Wi-Fi rollout programme was first launched in Cape Town.

Mokoena explained that Cell C got approached by Facebook international to partner with them in the rollout of public access Wi-Fi across the entire country, he added “Facebook embarked on this initiative and really ticking the objective box of ensuring each person that has access to a smart device stays connected”, he also mentioned that Facebook international went to other countries in Africa including Ghana, Nigeria and others and successful rolled out this public Wi-Fi.

When they came to South Africa, they had to choose one network operator to work with, and they chose Cell C. The project started off last year between May/June in the city of Cape Town ,allowing Cell C to deploy this public access Wi-Fi, Mokoena mentioned that their head office approached them with the same project, of rolling out data in the Free State, “We approached the premier’s office we told the about the objectives we would like to bring towards the province in order to unlock opportunities and address the challenges the youth are facing”.

In their research Cell C found that one major challenge the youth is facing is not having access to connectivity as they would like to know what is happening around the world, but they are unable to due to lack of connectivity. Mokoena added that when this opportunity came, they grabbed it with both hands as one of the objectives is the betterment of communities within the Free State.

Premier Ntombela took to the stage and delivered her speech mentioning that almost half of the Free State population is the youth and that 36% of the youth are unemployed. Premier Ntombela encouraged the audience and the youth at large to come up with ideas to change the lives of the youth, as Free State economy was dependant on Mines and Agriculture, but both do not contribute much to the economy anymore. The Primer is very excited about the project and the partnership with Cell C, she added “Everyone that is going to get an opportunity to change their lives must grab it and push to make sure that you improve your life and not to depend on anyone.” She also mentioned that there is a high rate of unemployed graduates.

In the 2009 State of the province address , a promise was made make means of introducing children to technology at an early stage to grow a generation of digital citizens, the Premier added that things have evolved with technology, one of the government’s objectives set by the government in addressing some of the societal challenges within unemployment e.g. youth skills development, health and education. The premier added “ Free State province government entered into a mutual beneficial agreement with Cell C that will see a large scale of roll out of the Free State public access Wi-Fi across all our municipalities” allowing learners and universities students to access academic and economic information, also allowing small towns to attract investment from various companies. The first stage of the project will attract locations with high populations.