Vodacom, Google give away smartphones to drive digital inclusion

Vodacom Business Africa extends coverage to Brazil
Vodacom World, Midrand, Johannesburg Image: Waldo Swiegers / Bloomberg

Vodacom in partnership with Google South Africa, have announced that they will give away hundreds of Android powered smartphones at no cost to residents in eleven villages across Limpopo province to drive digital inclusion.

The move to give away smartphones is part of the two companies’ continued efforts to reduce the digital divide by offering citizens in deep rural communities an opportunity to access the internet and reap the benefits of digital transformation.

Vodacom deployed 3G and 4G networks in the region and will drive digital adoption to people who need it the most.

In a statement, Vodacom Limpopo Region Managing Executive, Imran Khan said, “At Vodacom we are optimistic about how technology and connectivity can enhance the future and improve people’s lives. Through our business, we aim to build a digital society that transforms communities, embraces everyone, leaving no one behind. Our purpose is to ‘connect for a better future’, improving the lives of the next 100 million customers by 2025.”

Vodacom says the lack of access to fast mobile networks and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) tools such as computers and the latest smartphones are some of the key barriers that have excluded many people in remote areas of the country from playing an active role in the Digital Economy.

“In our pursuit to build an inclusive and sustainable digital society, we prioritise investing in deep rural communities as this is part of our vision to make sure that we connect everyone, irrespective of where they live,” added Khan.

Research from the McKinsey shows that using ICT tools such as smartphones and the Internet contributes to sustainable economic growth and social well-being. Above all, the Internet enables people to do a variety of things including: keeping in contact with friends, relatives, and customers; access public information and services; managing their health and advancing their education.

As societies get more connected, millions will tap into information and opportunities that were once beyond their reach. They will gain a greater voice in their communities and enrich the world’s flow of commerce and ideas.

There is a proven link between increased Internet access and economic growth. According to the International Telecommunication Union, a 10% increase in mobile broadband penetration yields a 1.8% increase in GDP in middle-income countries and a 2% increase in low-income countries.

Thus, the deployment of networks in deep rural areas will help to enhance socio-economic development in rural areas and access to the internet will help rural dwellers access services such as eHealth, eEducation and eCommerce.

The second phase of this project will entail educating people from these villages about the Internet, basic digital skills, how to use an Android smartphone, data, apps like Google Search, YouTube,  Google Maps and platforms such as ConnectU. ConnectU is a zero-rated platform from Vodacom that provides content aimed at social development and offers a variety of essential services free of charge.