How to connect to the free Sebenza wi-fi at your nearest taxi rank

Author: Keamogetswe Matlala

Sebenza wi-fi has started rolling out across all provinces in the country.

4-4 mas’hlalisane.

At South African taxi ranks, it is nothing strange to have four people squeezing onto a three-seater.

In fact, it is the best way to keep the queue moving and avoid leaving people on the side of the roads when they are in fact running late for work or school.

The last thing you want to be faced with in this situation is lacking enough data to stream any playlist of your choice, watch any YouTube video or even catch up on people’s social media statuses.

It seems this could be a thing of the past with this new wi-fi initiative

For the founders of Sebenza, 2018’s #DataMustFall couldn’t remain just a hashtag, something had to be done.

Calvin Le Mottée who has a history of market research technology and a passion for big data and Wesley Dorning who has a history with operations, business management and sales started the initiative by establishing Promoter Plus.

“We created Sebenza’s sister company, Promoter Plus, which gathered market research insights through activations. With this, we were able to highlight high mobile data spend in the commuter space, and a gap in access, for which the need became more apparent when COVID-19 affected the world. People needed to be online, and with no time to adjust, and the need for access to the internet was wide-spread across South Africa. And so, Sebenza became a realised concept,” they tell Drum.

The pair adds that the aim was and still is to solve the problem of affordability of data and access to the internet.

“In the years leading up to 2018, #DataMustFall was a big topic, and so was the fourth industrial revolution. With all of this technology booming worldwide, it felt like South Africa was many steps behind. Public Wi-Fi is readily available overseas, especially on public transport in countries like Europe, where there is infrastructure and a main mode of transport. In SA, the largest moving workforce use buses and minibuses to get around. There’s no infrastructure for these vehicles to move in, and it’s largely unregulated. That doesn’t mean that public transport commuters should not get access to a fundamental digital human right – access to information.”

Sebenza’s vision being “leading digital inclusivity” speaks to bridging the digital divide for public transport commuters.

Within their first month of operation in 2019 they had amassed about 16 000 wi-fi users.

“Sebenza had a proof-of-concept in Hammanskraal with 30 taxis. In one month, we had 16 000 unique users and an average of 25 connections per taxi per day. This was enough to slingshot us to 50 taxis, then 200, then 400, etc. Today, we are in 7 500 taxis and buses.

We worked from the ground up in the taxi industry, simply by talking up to a taxi driver and asking him to try our very first device. With this we were able to build on relationships from drivers to owners, to marshals and up to associations.”

With this approach, they became preferred partners for taxi wi-fi with SANTACO.

Sebenza wi-fi is currently operational in metros such as Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Welkom, Pietermaritzburg, East London.

In as much as the wi-fi is free to use, it is also rewarding with SebenzaBucks used to redeem open internet access. However, it is not zero-rated, which means that if you are not connected to a router, it will require an internet connection.

The social entrepreneurs explain how to earn the SebenzaBucks.

“This virtual currency has no rand value per say, unless you count megabytes. Users earn by browsing our content, like getting a daily bible verse, answering a survey question, watching a full-page ad for 15 seconds, or watching a video for say 10 to 30 seconds. With these actions combined, you earn 50 SebenzaBucks. That’s enough to get you 60 MegaBytes of open internet access. That’s an exchange of one to two minutes of someone’s time, for access.”

“That’s the ‘catch’. In order for our platform to be free-to-use, we have advertising and content to keep us running. Users, taxi drivers, taxi owners and associations don’t have to pay anything of rand value towards the use of Sebenza, installation of routers, or the data used every month. It’s absolutely free because of the way we have built our platform.”

The article originally appeared on Drum.