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Vodacom has long been on a journey to transform the lives of people through the use of technology. Specifically, expanding our network coverage for those living in the country’s deep rural areas to ensure connectivity for all. Broadband penetration has a transformative power and is an enabler for economic and social growth and as such, makes it an essential tool for empowering all South Africans, including people in rural areas.
In South Africa alone our mobile customer base increased to 1.5 million at the end of June 2018. We have also extended 4G to over 90% of the population and set out to connect over 200 new rural network sites as part of our accelerated rural coverage programme. Over and above investment into the growth and expansion of the network, Vodacom spends over a billion ran per annum providing free internet services by subsiding various zero-rated sites that offer critical services to the country’s most vulnerable citizens, such as those living in rural areas.
Connectivity to rural areas
An example of our commitment is Vodacom’s partnership with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs most of the people living in Wakkerstroom, the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province. The town is on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27km east of Volksrust and 56km south-east of Amersfoort.
As a result of this partnership, Vodacom moved all farmworkers using 2G feature phones to 3G devices and opened a new world of the internet and technology to farmworkers in the area. The benefits to the country are extensive if you consider that South Africa’s agriculture sector accounts for 65% of the continents employment and 75% of domestic trade. The sector is ripe for digital disruption as the Fourth Industrial Revolution sweeps across sectors and industries throughout the world.
Wakkerstroom is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model we hope to replicate across the country as part of our mission to connect people who live in deeply rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.
This is in a move that provides meaningful societal impact for low-income earners who eke out a living as farm workers by empowering them with the necessary tools to be part of the Digital Revolution. With BPG Langfontein, Vodacom is pioneering an approach to connect people in rural communities to faster mobile networks and devices, so they can take full advantage of the benefits of the Digital Revolution
Vodacom Connected Farmer is a cloud-based management service that provides Agri service to the following stakeholders within the smallholder farmer industry:
- Enterprise Management (the agribusiness)
- Mobile Enterprise users (agribusiness employees in the field)
- Input and output suppliers to the agri-industry (financial services)
The process begins with the agri-business registering smallholder farmers as their suppliers. Mobile enterprise users profile their farmers and farms and verify their identity during field visits, using Vodacom Connected Farmer on their mobile devices.