Communities, public institutions connecting to the internet

Cape Town: President Jacob Zuma says the availability of comprehensive broadband has ensured that regardless of their location, citizens can access information through mobile technology.

The President said this when he answered oral questions in the National Assembly on Thursday.

"The possession of smartphones by millions of South Africans has also ensured that most South Africans enjoy the benefits of accessing information across the country, especially in rural and underdeveloped areas.

"Connectivity at schools and universities has had significant impact in making available additional information and knowledge for learners and students," he said.

The President was responding to a question by United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa on the impact of broadband connectivity to citizens' access to information, as well as the areas at which connectivity had been rolled-out.

The President said a number of areas had received broadband connectivity, including, among others:

- Approximately 673 free Wi-Fi locations that are spread across the Tshwane CBD, Eersterus, Mamelodi, Soshanguve, GaRankuwa, Atteridgeville, Pretoria West and Centurion in Tshwane;

- The City of Cape Town had connecting 69 sites with Wi-fi in August this year;

- The City of Johannesburg was rolling-out free Wi-Fi in areas such as Braamfontein and Tladi Park in Soweto; and

- Over half of all libraries and clinics across Johannesburg's seven regions now having free Wi-fi provided by the municipality.

The President said through the 2010 FIFA World Cup Legacy Programme, 1650 sites were connected to the internet around the country.

"By July 2015, the City of eThekwini had connected more than 80 public libraries and 75 of these have free Wi-Fi.

"[The] Ekurhuleni Metro has been deploying their fibre network infrastructure in the previous financial year and is currently deploying its own Wi-Fi access infrastructure," said President Zuma.

The Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) has also connected 212 information communication technology centres and schools across all nine provinces between 2012 and 2015.

He said this included 71 information and communication technology access centres and 141 schools.

Drought relief support being given to farmers

President Zuma said, meanwhile, that support is being given to communities and farmers in the midst of water shortages in some parts of the country.

He said government's recently appointed Inter-Ministerial Committee, set up to deal with drought and water scarcity and led by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Pravin Gordhan, was coordinating efforts to respond to the challenges.

"Provincial government departments are also rolling out various intervention programmes to respond to the challenge.

"Government has set aside resources to enable the supply of water tankers for use in the distribution of water to affected areas, borehole drilling and rehabilitation, water conservation and demand management and water source augmentations.

"Support to be provided to farmers includes the purchase and provision of livestock feed, transportation of feed to the accessible point and water sources such as drilling of boreholes for animal drinking," he said.

In a post-Cabinet media briefing earlier on Thursday, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Jeff Radebe announced that government has added R96.6 million to the initial R352.6 million set aside to support the country's drought relief efforts.

This, the Minister said, included the purchase of 45 water tankers for the distribution of water to affected areas, borehole drilling and rehabilitation, water conservation and demand management, and water source augmentations.

To complement the relief efforts, the President said municipalities must also prioritise the repair of water leaks and the promotion of water-efficient technologies such as low-flush toilets, rainwater harvesting and the use of grey water for irrigation.

He said government would do all it can to help farmers during this difficult period.

"This difficult period requires the cooperation of all in the country. We call on all to save water and adhere to the water restrictions."