Internet access has always been a rather big talking point in Africa as it’s quite hard to access some parts of the continent.
Some countries have a better time getting online than others and a recent report titled Internet Inclusive Index: Bridging Digital Divides takes a look at how internet access is coming along around the world.
One of the key findings in the report was that internet use is empowering, particularly in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
As we’ve mentioned though getting internet to parts of Africa can be tricky and costly and even if one does manage to run broadband access to an area there is no guarantee folks will be able to afford the services.
However, Dr. Dawie de Wet – chief executive officer of Q-KON – has a bright idea that we’re on-board with. Rather than selling folks internet access, why not just give it to them, for free?
We know, it sounds mad but read on and like us, you might find yourself nodding your head in agreement.
“Significant benefits come from leveraging Wi-Fi private and public partnership programmes in order to enable better Internet inclusion,” explains de Wet, “Citizens of developed countries, particularly in urban areas, are by now accustomed to Wi-Fi coverage at low or no cost in cafes, universities, libraries, public transport and even streets and public squares.”
South Africans have already had a taste of free public Wifi thanks to Project Isizwe.
The trouble is the cost because internet access is not a free resource and somebody would ultimately have to pay for the infrastructure and bandwidth that is used.
The chief exec suggests that a model where other fees are used to offset the cost might be the answer.
“In this model, your normal gym subscription could include free Wi-Fi access at your favourite shopping mall etc. Government health subsidies can include broadband allowances at all public parks and suburban areas,” de Wet suggests.
This requires work not only from service providers but all economic sectors from government to private entities. It also doesn’t help if the cost that is pegged onto your gym membership is sky-high.
It’s also by no means a perfect solution but it is a good idea and everybody having access to the internet means access to banking, shopping and perhaps most importantly, education.
“Through empowering regulations, innovative strategies and enabling technologies, it is possible to grow and expand Wi-Fi access services, both on-premises and in public areas. Furthermore, it can be expected that the shifts and growth in this area will come from creative business models in government and private enterprises,” says the CEO.
While it is possible it seems like what de Wet suggest hinges on government and private entities working together. While many will scoff at this we’ve already seen private companies joining up with government initiatives.
Perhaps all that’s needed to give everybody free internet then, is a bit of a push.
[Image – CC BY 2.0 Simon A]