8ta, the mobile unit of  Telkom, South Africa’s most powerful information and communication technology solutions provider, is teaming up with Google in a deal that will see subscribers receive free internet access, in a move to facilitate internet access across the country in order to bolster development.

The agreement will provide 8ta users – approximately 1.5 million people – with free internet connection via their SIM cards.

“Effectively (this agreement) means that all South Africans can have access to Google search, Google e-mail and Google social networking by simply using any 8ta SIM card on any data-enabled handset — no matter how old — free of charge. This is a big deal,” said 8ta senior managing executive Amith Maharaj, reports bdlive.

The idea is that free, albeit limited, access to the internet via mobile devices will encourage currently unconnected users in Africa’s biggest economy to get involved with the online community, and afford users a chance to get to grips with the basics of email communications and internet browsing.

Users – through the free services known as Google Free Zone – will be able to browse the internet and use email services, however downloading of attachment will not be included, but users will be asked to buy data bundles in order to access downloading facilities.

It is thought that users may currently be deterred by the high costs of data bundles, and may be put off from accessing the internet via their mobile devices by fear of high data costs.

The pair believes internet connectivity to be key to fuelling economic development for the country; much in line with the 2009 report by the World Bank entitled Information and Communication for Development, which found a direct proven connection between internet penetration and economic growth.

“Breaking down the barriers to internet adoption is critical for SA to keep up with the rest of world in terms of social and economic development,” commented Maharaj.

Country manager for Google SA Luke Mckend added: “Working with 8ta on this exciting trial means that we can offer internet services at no cost to anyone with a phone…This gives people easier access to information in a way that benefits everyone, whether it’s an individual or a small business that wants to reach more people on the web.”


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