21st century farming is an IT-intensive business – but, says Stephen Basson of Graaff Reinet-based VisiConnect, lack of Internet connectivity has stopped farmers from being able to reap the full benefits.
“It’s hard to check stock prices, register for online auctions, do Internet banking or even just check your email if you’re stuck with a 14Kbps dialup modem on a landline that doesn’t work for much of the time,” says Basson. “Yet that’s the reality that a lot of South African farmers have been stuck with until now. There’s no option of ADSL and no cellphone reception. It’s been intensely frustrating.”
This frustration explains the rapid success of the YahClick broadband satellite offering from Vox Telecom, says Basson. “I have one client who used to wait ten minutes for a single email. The first time he connected via YahClick he downloaded 248 emails in four minutes – he could hardly believe it. He invited all his neighbours over for a braai on the spot to show them how it worked.”
Unlike older satellite offerings, YahClick is based on new technology that makes it highly affordable, says Basson. “Whereas in the past you may have been forced to pay more than R1,200 for a 512Kbps satellite plan, Vox Telecom’s YahClick plans start at less than R500 for their 512Kbps plan (which includes 4.5GBs of data) and their plans go up to 15Mbps if you need it.”
The service also enjoys an excellent uptime. Jacques Visser, YahClick project manager, says that YahClick guarantees a 99,5% uptime. “That’s about only 8 hours of downtime every year, which still compares favorably to broadband alternatives.”
For the many livestock and game farmers in the Eastern Cape, Basson says one of the benefits of YahClick broadband access is being able to participate in online livestock auctions. “Bidding via the Internet is a lot easier, cheaper and quicker than travelling hundreds of kilometres to do it in person,” he says. “But you can only do that if you have a fast, reliable connection.”