Technology can transform the educational experience at an individual student, group or class level, but when the borders of affordability and access get expanded, the benefits obtained get magnified, as schools are empowered to deliver more entrepreneurs, inventors, and innovators. It is in this spirit that Microsoft South Africa signed an agreement with Internet Service Provider Brightwave, to bring Wi-Fi and TV white spaces technology based on broadband access to more than 213,000 students at 609 primary and secondary schools, as well as several healthcare clinics in King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape Province.
This Brightwave partnership marks progress of closing the digital divide and the commitments Microsoft has made via its Affordable Access Initiative (AAI) program, a holistic, partnership-based programme that invests in internet connectivity, energy access, and IoT (Internet of Things) projects in unserved and underserved communities. The AAI program seeks to support, accelerate, and scale innovative business developing technologies that enable local communities to utilize cloud-based services and business models that reduce the cost of Internet and energy access to help more people participate in the digital economy.
“Far too many South Africans lack internet connectivity along with the educational, commercial and economic benefits of cloud-based services,” says Paul Garnett, Senior Director within Microsoft’s Affordable Access Initiative team. “Through partnerships such as these, we will be able to empower entrepreneurs to provide connectivity to many more people and consequently, enable the creation of critical services for many more South Africans who need it most.”
This strategic partnership with Brightwave will enable cloud consumption and digital transformation solutions in Health, Education, Public Safety and National security. The Brightwave deployment is being co-funded by Microsoft and Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA).
Boosting the connectivity of business in underserved communities
The partnership also allows Brightwave to leverage the Microsoft partnership to sell Internet access, devices, as well as cloud-based services such as Office 365 to government offices, small businesses, and consumers.
“We are super excited about our new partnership with Microsoft, as this enables Brightwave to offer an integrated services value proposition that will power e-Learning, e-Health, e-Government, and e-Commerce in rural and underserved communities in South Africa” says Mr. Charles Mwaura CEO of Brightwave.
Brightwave is a certified Black-Owned Enterprise that provides broadband Internet access in the sprawling underserved per-urban community of Soweto in South Africa. The ISP has successfully deployed and commercialised the largest Wi-Fi network in a predominantly disadvantaged community in South Africa, through offering data bundles at a tenth of market prices by leveraging an Ad-driven “freemium” model. The deployment in OR Tambo district of 609 sites is part of the expanding portfolio of broadband sites being deployed in rural and underserved communities across South Africa by Brightwave.
“This initiative will provide many entrepreneurs within underserved communities and rural areas with the tools they need to create businesses, address community problems and also help close the local skills gap, by enhancing the learning experience available to schools in these areas,” says Lumko Mtimde, CEO at USAASA.