Free Wi-Fi Turns The Streets Of Soweto Into A Beehive Of Activities


Following the roll out of free Wi-Fi hotspots in Gauteng, the township corner formerly used by the ‘abo clever’ to puff on fags and whistle at young girls is now the venue for a new crowd – internet surfers.

Internet geeks comprising of young people have taken over these corners as the government rolls out free Wi-Fi hotspots in Gauteng’s major townships.

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The City of Johannesburg has selected certain stops along Rea Vaya routes as sites for free internet for all.

Nine-year-old Nkululeko Mabe is one of the geeks who are drawn to the hotspots same way bees are drawn to honey.

Never losing concentration despite the passing cars on the Soweto Highway, he sits on the pavement with his whole interest dumped on his smartphone.

“I come here to download games. I love it here. I also sometimes do my schoolwork. I normally stay here until 7pm and then go back home,” said Mabe, who lives near the Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit System station in Diepkloof.

While most young boys and girls hit the spots to either download things on their devices or gossip on social media, some others come there for more serious business. Tshepo Mbata, 17, and Mandisa Khoza, 18, from Namedi Secondary School in Diepkloof came to submit their university application forms. The pair  say they spend more time on the corner than at home.

“We used to avoid this area. It was always full of boys who would like harassing us and asking us stupid questions. But since the free Wi-Fi everyone who cares to know comes here,” said Mbata as she searched through the latest fashion trends on Instagram.

Khoza on the other hand sees the spot as an improvise library where u can get everything you need.

“We no longer bother going to the library – everything is here, all you need is time,” said Khoza.

As from 3pm, the free Wi-Fi becomes a beehive of activities until late at night as pupils from different schools in Diepkloof come there to do their schoolwork.

A part-time first-year project management student at Wits University, Thabiso Sebola who often spends time on the corner had this to say:

“I do a lot of my studying here. I download subject content and review what my lecturer said in class with the assistance of information I get from various internet sites. I come here at least four times a week and spend between three and four hours here – even when it is cold,” said Sebola.

Adults also patronize these free Wi-Fi hotspots as Sammy Rakgale, a project manager for a Midrand company, was spotted parked nearby in his white Audi A4.

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“As you can see, I am on my way home but had to first download certain files. It’s convenient for me,” he said.

The marketing manager at BrightWave Technologies, Lusanda Mbane which is the broadband service provider contracted by the city to roll out the free Wi-Fi in some strategic spots said so far, there are now 400 hot spots in Soweto.

“Our aim is to make the internet available to everyone, regardless of their background,” said Mbane.

The old street notorious corner is now a hotspot for young scholars and job seekers to actualize their dreams.

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