Connected! Small businesses in rural areas get affordable internet access

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Small businesses in Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have received technical support to access affordable internet to help bridge the digital divide.

The joint venture project between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the UK Government’s Digital Access Programme has assisted a number of small businesses in the two provinces to access a rural wireless network in order to run profitable and sustainable businesses.

RURAL WIRELESS OPERATORS TO CREATE JOBS

“The beneficiary rural wireless operators SMMEs are expected to grow and flourish as sustainable digital businesses and create job opportunities while providing the much-needed affordable broadband connectivity in rural and township communities around the country,” said Dr Luzango Mfupe, the CSIR Principal Researcher.

He said the project, known as the Accelerated Technical Support, Monitoring and Evaluation for Rural Television White Spaces (TVWS) project, will provide these small businesses with technical support and capacity building as they seek to establish sustainable business models. 

Assisting these rural wireless network operators in this way will help to ensure sustained rural internet connectivity and to bridge the digital divide in these locations.

“The project builds on the joint CSIR-United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Rural TVWS Network Operator Support Programme. That project enabled these small business rural wireless network operators to install affordable wireless broadband networks in their communities.  It supported four small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) owned by women, youth and persons with disability, in four provinces,” said Mfupe.

He said that the networks have already been launched in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal and will soon be launched in Free State and the Western Cape.

The project was funded by the UNDP through the Government of Japan and implemented by the CSIR, an entity of the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI).

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ONGOING SUPPORT TO BE PROVIDED

“The Accelerated Technical Support, Monitoring and Evaluation for Rural TVWS project aims to ensure such sustainability by providing the SMMEs with ongoing technical support, capacity building in value added services creation, sustainable digital business models, as well as monitoring and evaluation for uptake of broadband and digital services among the beneficiary communities,” he added.

Acting British High Commissioner to South Africa, Adam Bye said affordable internet access is key to helping to bridge the digital divide.

“I am delighted that the UK government is helping to fund this important project aimed at ensuring increased rural internet connectivity, so promoting digital inclusion and inclusive economic growth,” said Bye.