Delft cashing-in on wi-fi shop platform
Community’s economy is starting to take off with new opportunities
THE Western Cape government’s roll-out of public wifi in Delft has led to the rise of tech businesses benefiting local residents by generating employment and resulting in them retaining a bigger slice of the community’s estimated R300 million monthly spend.
Home of Compassion Ministries is using internet access to connect residents to the new economy with offerings in online shopping, payment systems and transport.
Economic opportunities MEC Alan Winde visited Home of Compassion yesterday, which was one of the NPOs (non-profit organisations) selected by the Department of Economic Development and Tourism to access grant funding to set up limited free wi-fi zones in places with poor internet access.
Since 2013, Home of Compassion had been on a concerted drive to bring more residents and businesses online and established the Mzansi Digital Trust to develop initiatives around boosting wi-fi connectivity.
Winde said the Mzansi Digital Trust showcased the power of connectivity.
“Home of Compassion has built new offerings on the back of our wi-fi investment into Delft and this is ideally what we would like to see in more communities. Residents are now linked to the new economy and can participate in this digital economy. This is an excellent example of how technology can improve lives.”
Winde said the project formed part of the Western Cape government’s plan to connect more residents to affordable internet, while in another initiative the Public Access project with Neotel has seen the installation of 150 hotspots, with 250 new users signing up to the service daily.
Charles George, chairperson for the Mzansi group, said the organisation hoped to create about 6 000 local jobs over 18 months in a concept pilot known as Mzansi Digital Republic.
George said when the organisation created the Flash concept, which allows vendors such as spaza-shop owners to sell airtime, it generated about 600 000 jobs nationwide.
Aubrey Botha, chief executive of the Mzantsi Digital Trust, said the organisation was getting 148 000 hits daily on the network.
“Around 1 000 people would gather around the Spar connecting to the free wi-fi and socialising. We had a captive and connected audience and we realised the potential in this platform.”
Botha said research found that the majority of the monthly household income in Delft was flowing out of the community.
“Figures showed there were 39 000 households in Delft, with about two or three families on each erf and that each family had an average monthly income of R3 800. That means there’s R300m flowing through this area each month, but not much of it stays inside Delft.”
Botha added that between 60% and 90% of the monthly spend was on retail, predominantly at major retailers, resulting in the money leaving the community.
He said in response, Home of Compassion launched an online platform, Jam Jar, to allow residents to order from small shops in the area, while local entrepreneurs also competed at the business incubator to start up their own stores.
“Through a partnership with a wholesaler, Cape Basic Products, goods are sold to store owners at a discounted rate, keeping prices lower. A gogo would have to travel to Mitchells Plain for meat, then to Bellville for fruit and vegetables. While you think you are bargain-hunting, the goods are adding up. With our platform, we guarantee residents the lowest prices for food.”
Botha said there were 12 000 residents using the platform, where they bought their goods inside the virtual mall and the store owner receives the order and packages it for the resident to collect.
Another plan is in the pipeline to bring local taxi drivers on board to deliver goods to residents.
“Our platform has an automatic built-in savings wallet. When you buy a product, the store puts a portion of what you have spent back into your wallet. Once a certain amount is reached, the user is able to buy goods in the area. In this way we invest in Delft,” he pointed out.