12 August 2014: BGAN is helping remote African communities to experience the internet for the first time via a vehicle named WiFi Winston.
The four-by-four is showcasing the power of connectivity using an Explorer 325 BGAN vehicular terminal, helping underserved communities to see how their lives and work opportunities can be enhanced with internet access.
Winston has so far visited nine provinces in South Africa in nine weeks in its planned nine-month long journey through the country and East Africa, providing free WiFi within a 50 metre radius at each stop.
The initiative is part of Project Isizwe, a non-profit organization, which aims to bring the internet to communities through free WiFi for public spaces, with a core focus on connectedness for education.
It also aims to encourage local governments to introduce WiFi, helping it to plan, roll-out and maintain free networks.
“Inmarsat’s connectivity is absolutely instrumental to the project. Without connectivity we’re selling the dream without showing them what the dream is,” said Gerrit Scholtz, Winston’s ‘pilot’.
“The feedback we’ve been getting back has given us a snapshot of how connectivity can improve people’s life chances in terms of education as well as health and job opportunities. Most commonly people have said they would use WiFi to read more and learn.
“Amazingly the kids wanted to see photos of Nelson Mandela’s funeral. I was almost taken aback when they asked and their enthusiasm to know more about the event was incredibly heartwarming.”
He added: “A few communities have indicated that they would like to take our initial conversations around free WiFi further. Both national and provincial government have placed broadband strategies in place and we’re there to help fulfil their obligations.”
Inmarsat’s BGAN also enables Project Isizwe to update social media and increase awareness about WiFi Winston through Twitter and Instagram.
James Cemmell, Inmarsat’s Head of Government Affairs, said: “Project Isizwe seeks to eliminate the market failure for connectivity by showcasing the possibilities to excluded communities and creating groundswell demand. The attributes of Inmarsat connectivity – easy to use, very reliable, high availability network – are each advantaged by this project.”
Project Isizwe was founded by e-entrepreneur Alan Knott-Craig, founder of Ever Africa which sells eCommerce, games, education, eBooks and telecoms in Africa.