Free The Web SA: The Movement for a Better Internet Experience in South Africa


To put it simply, the Internet offered in South Africa can be summed up into one word: bad.

Speaking as a broadband user of about three years, my experience with some of the major broadband suppliers in this country has not fared well. Coupled with exuberant prices and dismal support for a diverse range of computing platforms, the web experience in South Africa can almost be described as parallel to that of China's oppressed Internet access.

That's why I jumped at the chance to add my support to a new movement (online, of course) for change in the way South Africans access the web — and I don't mean access in the experience wise, I mean access at the most basic level: purchasing a decent network package that delivers for what you pay.

For years, us South Africans have been taken for a ride by fat cat Internet monopolies flaunting disgracing deals that empty our pockets and bank accounts faster than the network speed we're after. These companies play on the apparent ignorance of the basic web user, who, they feel, can be taken for a ride and made to pay their exuberant fees for meagre access.

Well, the reign of these unscrupulous Internet providers has finally come to an end, I am delighted to report. The massive online movement, started on Facebook — which, I might add, has gained my respect as a force to be reckoned with when persuading for big causes —has been so successful that MWeb, one of South Africa's largest Internet providers, has recently announced uncapped Internet access at R219.

This is a quantum leap forward, to paraphrase Apple, in my opinion, for South African Internet users. It represents the hope for a better web experience for the future, and Internet access for more of the population. With the 2010 FIFA World Cup coming up very soon, the world's eyes will be trained on us, and, especially, the eyes of investors hoping to stake fortunes in our rich economy.

While the large population has predicted that the more "physical" industries will be invested into, I have a strong feeling that Silicon Valley startups wanting to break into the African market with their exciting and ambitious ideas, will be particularly interested in our technological finess, and by having a strong Internet access platform, with a large userbase, their plans can certainly be made possible. And, of course, this will lead to a better South Africa, and in a macroscopic perspective, a better Africa, for all.

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