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Cape Town citizens to access solar-powered free Wi-Fi on a Smart Bench

Wesgro, in partnership with the Cape Town Partnership, is proud to pilot the Isabelo Smart Bench – a stand-alone, entirely solar-powered free Wi-Fi hotspot for public use complete with USB charging points, night lighting and easy seating – on the corner of Adderley and Wale St in the Cape Town CBD.

A first for the continent, the bench was initially launched last September at The Grove Square in Braamfontein. It is designed as a stand-alone entirely solar powered, free Wi-Fi hotspot, complete with USB charging points and easy seating that can help attract and bring life back into public spaces.

The City of Cape Town is launching the Smart Benchto complement its investment in fibre and wireless connectivity, as well as free Wi-Fi sites.

A new user of the Smart Bench can connect to “Isabelo Free Wi-Fi” network to enjoy free, unlimited internet service with their smart phone or device, and charge their batteries at the free power point.

Isabelo has joined with Cape Town Partnership and Wesgro to provide a Wi-Fi range of 15 metres around the bench with connection speeds of up to 10mbps.

Isabelo Smart Bench
Solar-powered free Wi-Fi hotspot

Judy Lain, Chief Marketing Officer for Wesgro, believes Isabelo will generate real-time data from visitors and enable them to share information around events in the province.

“We can use these insights in our marketing strategies to develop campaigns that are highly effective and experiences that are sharable. More importantly, Isabelo is a world-class installation providing free Wi-Fi accessible to all”, says Judy.

Bulelwa Makalima-Ngwewana, CEO of Cape Town Partnership said the public benefit of increased Internet access gets us, and our partners in the city, exited.

“Busier spaces are often safer and provide more opportunities for relationship building. The bench is an exciting experiment in placemaking. The space where it’s placed suddenly becomes more: a place to meet people, find out information or just relax. Given recent events in Cape Town, the safety associated with active public spaces has become more important now than ever.”

The Isabelo Smart Bench was invented by Louise Meek two years ago while she was studying for a Masters’ Degree in Urban Infrastructure Design and Management.

She says “Isabelo aims to reduce the digital divide in African cities and create inclusive, vibrant public spaces where everyone feels welcome to sit down and get connected”.

Smart Bench in one of Braamfontein's trendy street
Smart Bench in one of Braamfontein’s trendy street

The bench is a first for Africa. These different technologies have been available on our continent for some time and Isabelo brings them all together into one incredible user-friendly Smart Bench.

Meek was one of eight finalists to receive funding from Joburg’s “The Green City Startup” in March 2015 and was launched in Braamfontein, Johannesburg where it is proving a popular meeting place with an average of 50 users per hour logging onto the Wi-Fi.

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