Failure of Wi-Fi rollout at libraries depriving communities of opportunity

The Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture is failing in the roll-out Wi-Fi services to libraries across the province, despite having been responsible for the implementation thereof for more than a year now.

This lack of implementation is taking opportunities away from communities that are most in need, who cannot afford the high cost of data and rely on public access to the internet. The shift to digital is growing at a rapid pace, with everything from school work to job applications increasingly dependent on web access.

To deny library users this right is to deny them these important economic opportunities.

Responding to a parliamentary question, DSRAC MEC Bulelwa Tunyiswa confirmed that the roll-out of Wi-Fi is a competency of her department, but that they had received support from the National Department of Arts and Culture, through a third-party service provider, up until last year August.

However, since this contract ended, no new company has been contracted to provide Wi-Fi to libraries.

SEE: IQP 29 – Q374

MEC Tunyiswa goes on to say that the Department received, and has subsequently spent, a conditional grant of R1.2 million in the last financial year to assist with the rollout of Wi-Fi services at libraries.

It is not entirely clear what exactly the R1.2m was spent on, if no contractor has been appointed to provide internet services for over a year. The MEC says the funds were not allocated per library, but rather spent on infrastructure and internet services.

The Democratic Alliance will ask follow-up questions to the MEC to detail exactly what the money was spent on.

The DA recognises libraries as potential opportunity centres. We believe that providing Wi-Fi at libraries is essential to providing communities with access to opportunities for research and the job market.

The DA believes that the Department needs to take greater strides in increasing the Wi-Fi infrastructure of the libraries.

The neglect of libraries in the Eastern Cape is indicative of the department’s inability to meet the needs of the province. The Democratic Alliance will continue to fight for access to economic and technological opportunities for all