Friday, 28 January 2022 16:41

How purpose-led brands are bridging SA’s gaping educational digital divide.

Staff Reporter.

Globally, more than 65% of young people under 25 lack internet access at home[i]. In South Africa, more than 90% of South African households have no access to fixed internet at home[ii]

This enormous digital gap, encompassing vulnerable and underserved communities throughout South Africa, is a significant disadvantage to the vast majority of our country’s people and especially to our learners and students growing up in this digital age. This challenge was severely compounded during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown when schools and universities closed and learning suddenly shifted from classroom-based teaching to remote online teaching at home.

Those unable to access online teaching from home suffered a massive gap in their studies and many risked falling behind at a great cost to their education and futures. But even those learners who had access to the internet struggled with connectivity, a lack of infrastructure for WiFi connections and the high cost of data, further barriers to remote learning.

"Access to free uncapped WiFi can help reduce inequalities by providing access to the internet for remote schooling, online quality education, skills training, employment opportunities and other essential digital services, allowing all South Africans to benefit from, and participate in the digital economy," says Janine Rebelo, CEO and Co-Founder of Think WiFi, an AdTech media owner and public WiFi network provider. "We partner with leading purpose-driven brands to provide free internet access in vulnerable and disadvantaged communities to help bridge this gap and enable equal access to online education and resources."

Through its purpose-driven advertising model, Think WiFi provides underserved communities with free uncapped internet access via ThinkZone WiFi hotspots. Funded by Digital and Out Of Home advertising, this purpose-driven advertising platform provides advertisers with all the benefits of digital marketing, by reaching a previously inaccessible audience in a direct, measurable and engaging way,  while simultaneously reducing socioeconomic inequalities and driving social change.

These advertising campaigns provide advertisers with performance-driven metrics as well as measured community impacts using Think WiFi’s Hope Index that tracks five United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals, including Goal 4: access to free, equitable and quality education.

By providing schools with free uncapped connectivity and digital education apps, Think WiFi’s model gives learners and students unlimited access to online classrooms, lectures, vocational training and tools. ThinkZone WiFi hotspots have already been rolled out to 20 schools, with further   schools, youth centres and community libraries planned in the near future.

The impact this service has on communities is far-reaching. A case in point is Blikkiesdorp, a rural area outside of Cape Town, where the children in the community were able to keep up with online learning during the lockdown due to the benefit of free internet access thanks to ThinkZone WiFi hotspots.

"Without Think WiFi, I would never have been able to achieve the marks and success I did in Matric," says Jaydee Daniels, a local learner at Hindle High School in Delft – a township on the outskirts of Cape Town - who passed Grade 12 last year with a Bachelor’s Degree pass, despite pandemic-related school closures and teaching constraints. "Thanks to the ThinkZone WiFi hotspot in our local community, Blikkiesdorp, I could access information online to help me with my studies, including classes and lectures, and YouTube tutorials.

"Access to free WiFi gave me the tools to obtain my Matric qualification, bringing me one step closer to fulfilling my dream of studying to become a teacher. Thanks to Think WiFi, I have also been able to apply online for bursaries at several universities and I am currently on the University of Stellenbosch's waiting list. Encouraged by this and inspired by my sister, who completed her Matric and continues to show us how far education and determination can get you, I am determined to build a better life for our family!"

"This why we do what we do at Think WiFi,"says Rebelo. "Think WiFi’s model is a great example of advertising with a purpose: giving brands saliency in township economies, which in turn funds free, uncapped WiFi that uplifts underserved communities and closes the digital divide. Driving digital equality is our core ambition. In this way, we empower communities through tech for good."

[i] https://data.unicef.org/resources/children-and-young-people-internet-access-at-home-during-covid19/

[ii] http://www.statssa.gov.za/publications/P0318/P03182020.pdf.