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TikTok pilots 50 free Wi-Fi hotspots in SA

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Short-video social media platform, TikTok, has partnered with Wi-Fi provider, ThinkWiFi, to pilot 50 free Wi-Fi hotspots in communities across South Africa.

The pilot program will be rolled out in low-income areas across the country like Bushbuckridge in the province of Mpumalanga, Gugulethu in the Western Cape as well as Soweto in Gauteng.

The company said in a statement that the initiative was inspired by the need to drive awareness and advocacy relating to the digital divide and the need for digital literacy inclusion for all communities. The pilot program will run for six months.

ThinkWiFi CEO, Janine Rebelo, stated that the company is delighted to contribute to promoting Internet accessibility and reducing digital inequalities in South Africa.

"Opportunities on the Internet for our youth are endless, but many South Africans do not have access to digital hardware, digital literacy skills, and Internet connectivity. The latter reality is exacerbated by the high cost of data and the limited availability of infrastructure to support broadband penetration targets," Rebelo added.

TikTok's director of government relations and public policy for sub-Saharan Africa, Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, echoed Rebelo's sentiments by adding that the platform plays an important role in the digital world.

"With this pilot, we hope to encourage more people to join digital spaces such as ours, to not only create content but to learn new skills and educate fellow community members about their passion and interests," Mgwili-Sibanda continued.

Economic empowerment

There has been a push by the South African government for companies to help formalize businesses in lower-income areas.

In May, one of South Africa's biggest telecom operators, MTN SA, said it will be investing 2.2 billion South African rand (US$137 million) in network modernization within the Gauteng province, with a focus on extending its reach in low-income areas.

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The Gauteng Legislature has passed a Township Economic Development Bill which is aimed at helping empower townships and disadvantaged communities in the province economically.

The call by the South African government has also seen other companies like fiber provider Vumatel launch prepaid fiber products in South Africa's townships.

The company also recently bought a 45% stake in local Internet service provider (ISP) Herotel, which focuses on connectivity in smaller towns and cities .

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*Top image source: Image by Freepik

— Matshepo Sehloho, Associate Editor, Connecting Africa

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