By Brink van Zyl, Online Experience Consultant at Vox.
With increasing numbers of businesses and individuals shifting to remote working and online
learning, access to affordable and unlimited internet connectivity has become an essential
rather than a luxury, risking the digital exclusion of those living in outlying areas. Key to
closing this divide will be taking a community-oriented approach to drive adoption of fibre-
based prepaid wireless internet services.
South Africans have been consuming more digital content over the past few years, driven by
adoption of social media to communicate and engage with each other, and the use of online
platforms, such as YouTube, to watch videos. Restrictions brought about by multiple
lockdowns have merely accelerated this trend, with eCommerce, remote working and
studying online quickly growing in popularity.
While this may not make much of a difference in traditional suburbs, there is an adverse
effect on outlying – and often disadvantaged – communities, where the number of options to
access the internet is severely limited. Here, communities are reliant on mobile service
providers, and end up spending a disproportionate amount on data bundles in order to enjoy
the benefits of the internet.
It also means that people tend to use services from multiple mobile providers in order to
benefit from data deals, or be restricted to using the internet in the middle of the night to use
up their ‘off-peak’ data allocations. Otherwise, it can cost up to R200 to download a high
definition movie, depending on the data bundle used.
This is simply not affordable, and does not cater to a modern digital lifestyle that requires
affordable, unlimited internet access to not only stream music and videos, but access a
variety of information on the web, work remotely, or even complete schooling or a university
course online. In an age where the government is digitising more of its services, lack of
access to affordable internet also means reduced access to government information and
Fibre is key to enabling access to affordable unlimited internet connectivity and can provide
an improved user experience than mobile networks, which can get congested when many
users are in the same area. Apart from bringing fibre to underserved outlying communities,
fibre network operators like Vuma Reach are also introducing prepaid models in order to
attract customers and drive adoption, and making use of WiFi-enabled on-premise
equipment in order to cut out the need to spend extra on a router.
Driving adoption of fibre-enabled wireless internet in these communities will require more
than just an army of salespeople though. These markets have long been entirely dependent
on mobile operators, and not much has been done to raise awareness about fibre – and its
benefits – in local communities in order to drive demand and adoption.
With geographies ranging from Soweto to Mitchell’s Plain, it is clear that a one-size fits all
approach isn’t going to work either. What those two places have in common though is a lack of access to affordable unlimited connectivity. HYPA was created to focus specifically on this
market, foster close relationships with local communities to drive education and awareness,
and to be agile enough to take advantage of the opportunities that arise.
Rather than taking an existing offering and modifying it to reach new markets, HYPA was
designed to suit the unique needs of these markets, and to provide customers from these
communities with quality service and support.
Driving this shift toward fibre-enabled wireless internet will also come down to being more
actively involved in communities, and working with local organisations and influencers in
order to drive awareness about the benefits of fibre-based wireless internet in comparison to
their existing connectivity methods. This includes the introduction of a referral programme
that rewards community members for encouraging their family and friends to sign up.
Rather than simply selling, this is more about educating and then advocating for the use of
fibre-enabled wireless internet in order to unpack the countless opportunities that will be
opened up for residents, businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs from within these
communities – and help raise their quality of life by bringing to life HYPA’s slogan of ‘Live