Technology Hubs planned for Townships

By Ndaba Dlamini

Johannesburg - As part of its ambitious broadband project, the City of Johannesburg plans to set up techno hubs where people can access the internet and boost their technology skills.

According to Vumani Mangali, the assistant director of Information Communication Technology (ICT) in Joburg's Economic Development Department, the project will be a vital tool to transport citizens to digital fluency.

Besides transforming the way the city delivers its services, broadband will also offer beneficiary programmes to its residents, reports

"These programmes linked to broadband are meant to empower citizens. They will provide access to ICT infrastructure, ICT skills, business advice and job advisory support for disadvantaged communities," he said.

The main focus of the broadband beneficiary programme will be multi-service digital centres - techno hubs - that will house existing and future programmes aimed at helping people develop, among others, computer, entrepreneurial and job-seeking skills.

These techno hubs will be a joint effort between the economic development and community development departments, and focus on previously disadvantaged areas, according to Mr Mangali.

"By establishing the techno hubs, we will be creating a 'one stop shop' for learners wishing to advance themselves in computer technology and in the process open up their chances of being marketable when they go out looking for jobs," he said.

His department is busy designing the techno hubs. Orange Farm has been identified for a techno hub, which hopefully will be established in one of the township's community centres.

The service provider for the broadband project has been chosen and the city is busy with auditing. However, Mr Mangali concedes that it still has a huge task ahead to bring the new communication technology to its citizens.

"Before we came up with the idea of techno hubs, we asked ourselves the question: how can we advance the lives of the people living in townships through improved technology?

"For example, how will a sewing project in the township benefit from the setting up of a computer centre at the same premises? [The answer is] they will be able to use computers, draw up their own fliers and even create their own websites," he said.

In other words, on top of helping people acquire digital skills, techno hubs will help to develop small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs).

"People in the age groups between 40 and 50 can also come for help because they are the ones mostly looking into establishing their own businesses.

"So we won't be exclusively concentrating on youth - we want to create a kind of 'vibey' environment for youth and small business development," he said.

Since most townships lack internet cafes, a concerted effort will be made to encourage young people to open up internet cafes.

"In consultation with ward councillors, we would also like to see a situation where youth are able to own their own businesses in the ICT [sector] in townships," he said.

There are already established sites around the city where techno hubs can be set up.

These include the youth advisory centres in Randburg, Yeoville and Bellavista. More sites are planned for Ivory Park and Diepsloot.

To ensure the techno-hubs are sustainable, corporates and companies will be encouraged to adopt a hub.

"Companies will be encouraged to donate computers and provide training for techno hub staff," Mr Mangali said.