MBOMBELA – Vodacom Mpumalanga Region, in partnership with Google South Africa, is giving away Android powered smartphones at no cost to scores of people in villages of Mbuzini, Mangweni, Stenborg and Magogeni in Nkomazi. This forms part of Vodacom and Google’s continued efforts to reduce the digital divide and offer many who reside in deep rural communities in Mpumalanga province access to the internet for the first time so they too can reap the benefits of digital transformation.
The lack of access to fast mobile networks and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tools such as computers and the latest smartphones are some of the key barriers that have excluded many people in remote areas of the country from playing an active role in the Digital Economy. The provision of smartphones by Vodacom Mpumalanga Region and Google South Africa in deep rural communities where the Region has deployed 3G and 4G networks will drive digital adoption to people who need it the most.
Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga Region said: “Putting smartphones in the hands of people who live in deep rural areas in our province ensures that they become part of the Digital Economy and reap the associated economic benefits. As a result of this partnership, school-going kids can now access the internet for the first time using the sponsored smartphones, whilst those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones to apply for jobs over the internet. Importantly, those who previously had to travel long distances to do banking are doing this on their devices from the comfort of their homes.”
Mariam Abdullahi, Director, Android and Platforms Partnerships for Africa said: “Android’s goal has always been to bring the power of computing to everyone. Access to the opportunities the internet offers is critical for any nations’ economic growth & social inclusion. We believe that this collaboration will bring more South Africans online and help them take advantage of the opportunities.”
Research from the McKinsey shows that using ICT tools such as smartphones and the Internet contributes to sustainable economic growth and social well-being. Above all, the Internet enables people to keep in contact with friends, relatives, and customers; access public information and services; manage their health; and advance their education. As societies get more connected, millions will tap into information and opportunities that were once beyond their reach. They will gain a greater voice in their communities and enrich the world’s flow of commerce and ideas.
There is a proven link between increased Internet access and economic growth. The International Telecommunication Union found that a 10% increase in mobile broadband penetration yields a 1.8% increase in GDP in middle-income countries and a 2% increase in low-income countries. Thus, the deployment of networks in deep 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.
The second phase of this project will entail educating people from these villages about the Internet, basic digital skills, how to use an Android smartphone, data, apps like Google Search, YouTube, Google Maps and platforms such as ConnectU. ConnectU is a zero-rated platform from Vodacom that provides content aimed at social development and offers a variety of essential services free of charge. For example, learners and students enrolled in schools and universities can access relevant information on this platform for free, with no data costs. The region will also sign up learners to Vodacom e-School, a free, unlimited online education portal that provides educational content for learners in grades R to 12.