MWEB increases underserviced area internet investment

Mweb is increasing investment in a chain of Internet cafés and computer training centres to expanding the availability and affordability of Internet access to underserviced communities

October 4, 2011

Silulo Ulutho Technologies (Silulo) has opend its 18th store in Blue Downs in the Western Cape with the assistance of MWEB.

Blue Downs is the fourth of five stores to be opened as a result of the MWEB investment, which totals R1.1 million over the past two years.  The first three were opened in Khayelitsha, Philippi and Du Noon. The fifth shop is planned for Delft.

Carolyn Holgate, MWEB Connect General Manager, says Silulo’s story is a remarkable one given that its founders, Luvuyo and Lonwabe Rani, began by selling PCs out of the boot of their car in 2004.

“Silulo was a natural fit for MWEB as we share the vision of taking the Internet to the people of South Africa. What excites us about Silulo is the diversity of its offering, which includes services like Internet access, training, desktop support and communication facilities for people in underserviced areas,” Holgate says.

The store, which is situated in the Cavalier Retail Centre, was opened by Alderman Belinda Walker, Mayoral Committee Member for Economic, Environmental and Spatial Planning. The event was also attended by Solly Fourie, Head of Department for Economic Development and Tourism, who assisted with the handover of two bursaries for Basic Computer Skills Training, sponsored by Silulo.

Luvuyo Rani says it’s the 18th Silulo store to open in five and a half years after the first store opened in 2006. A total of 11 of the stores are one-stop centres with training, support and Internet access; five are training centres; and two are Internet cafés.

“We’ve trained over 1600 people in 2011 and currently have 60 staff. Along with providing Internet access and general office services, we also offer on-site support for small to medium enterprises, homes, schools and churches,” he says.

Holgate says Silulo’s vision will draw more people into the digital economy.

“Silulo has proved themselves to be pioneers in servicing the needs of the community in these areas by not only providing Internet access, but also by equipping people to use the Internet effectively. Its initiatives like these that stimulate business growth as people are given the opportunity to communicate more effectively,” she says.

Centres like Silulo are of vital importance to small businesses, school leavers and the unemployed because they make technology and Internet connectivity available to large groups of people.

This is supported by research figures from World Wide Worx, which state that over 8 million people will access the Internet in 2011, a 50 percent increase from 2009. In 2009, 5.3 million South Africans had Internet access. This has grown to 7.5 million currently.

Rani says Silulo is expanding into other provinces as well. The first Silulo store in the Eastern Cape is expected to open in Queenstown before the end of the year and another store is scheduled to open in Umtata in January 2012

“In five years time we expect to be in every province in South Africa,” he says.

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