SAFE NEW PARK FOR OUTDOOR LOVERS
NOW OUTDOOR lovers in the busy CBD can relax in a safe new park and enjoy free internet – and free charging of their phones and gadgets.
In what is a first for the city, Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) has installed its first smart bench in the new Metro Park, close to the Bree Street taxi rank.
The bench is equipped with technology that not only charges electronic gadgets, but also monitors what goes on at the park, such as the number of visitors, crime incidents and littering.
The story behind the benches is an interesting one.
It started with an old Joburg resident, George Elkin, who was a frequent user of Joburg’s park facilities and would often lodge requests for park benches whenever he visited a park.
When Elkin died a few years ago, funds from his trust were set aside to contribute annually to City Parks for benches and seating facilities for the public.
“So, for the past few decades, JCPZ has been receiving grants from the trust, which contribute towards benches in various parks in and around the city. Late last year we approached the trust to enquire if they would support the design and installation of smart benches in the inner city that are wi-fi enabled, can be used to charge mobile gadgets while simultaneously acting as seating for park users who want to safely use tablets and phones in the park,” said City Parks managing director Bulumko Nelana.
The trust agreed. Metro Park was chosen as the preferred site for the pilot project, and the first installation was concluded late last year.
“We are hopeful that business will come on board to support this innovation as it attracts an increase in the number of users of parks, and is safe to use due to its proximity to security guard houses in the park. Furthermore, it will further provide us with statistics on user patterns in facilities that have been identified to accommodate smart benches,” he said.
Louise Meek, managing director of Isabelo, says the unit is encased in concrete, which protects the inside technology and will help withstand extreme temperatures. It is also off the electricity grid as it is powered by solar panels. “Also, almost everything that goes into these benches is locally made,” she said.
Meek was one of the recipients of funding from the City of Joburg and the University of Johannesburg’s Green City Startup, which gives entrepreneurs money to have their ideas developed into green start-ups. “I am very happy that, as a recipient of this funding, I have been able to do something for the city.”
City of Joburg member of the mayoral committee for community development Nonhlanhla Sifumba went to see the newly erected bench yesterday and immediately connected herself to the wi-fi. She set about tweeting about it and taking selfies with the bench in the background.
“We are hoping to get more of these soon, especially in disadvantaged areas. We believe this will encourage more people to use our parks. We are also appealing to businesses to sponsor these and to adopt parks.”
We are hoping to get more of these soon
TEXTING: MMC for community development Nonhlanhla Sifumba on a smart bench with free wi-fi and a port for charging phones using a cable in the Metro Park, next to the Bree Street taxi rank.
SURFING THE NET: Nkululeko Mfana and Dawn Dludlu are seen on a smart Bench.