(Cape Town) – Fitted with USB charging points, free WiFi and a comfy seat, a solar-powered bench has popped up in the Mother City, following the success of its prototype which went live in Johannesburg’s trendy Braamfontein suburb last year.
The Isabelo Smart Bench, as it’s called, is touted as the Africa’s first initiative to bring life (and wireless internet) to public spaces in South Africa, using “smart” benches.
In order for the Cape Town project to take shape, the team of Isabelo partnered with Wesgrow – Cape Town and Western Cape tourism, trade and investment – and the Cape Town Partnership charity organisation. The Jo’burg initiative saw a partnership with property developer group South Point.
According to the Cape Argus, “the first Isabelo smart bench in Cape Town is installed in Adderley Street. Isabelo is a wi-fi enabled bench which aims to bridge the technology divide by providing free wi-fi in public spaces in African cities. The bench not only provides wi-fi for those in close range or sitting on it, it also serves as a cellphone charging port and is solar powered.”
Last year Memeburn.com reported on the Jo’burg installation:
The launch of the official Isabelo Smart Bench comes at a time when we’re seeing more and more free WiFi initiatives taking shape across South Africa. The most prominent player seems to be non-profit Project Isizwe which over 700 000 internet users earlier this year.
“We are excited to be partnering with the team from Isabelo, as its Smart Bench concept dovetails with our strategy to rebuild Braamfontein as an inclusive, multi-dimensional and student-friendly live-work-play destination district,” says Ndumiso Davidson, the CEO of South Point property developer group, which partnered with Isabelo.
A prototype of the bench has been tested in the Maboneng Precinct earlier this year and is said to have been welcomed by users as a life-changing urban facility.
Louise Meek, the founding director of the Isabelo Smart Bench, explains in a press release that the cement bench was designed with the intention of democratising public spaces and providing 100% public access to the internet.
“In this way Isabelo aims to reduce the digital divide in African cities and create inclusive, vibrant public spaces where everyone feels welcome to sit down and get connected,” she says.
Meek adds that South Africa has 23 million smartphone users, equating to a population penetration of over 47%. After Nigeria and India, South Africa ranks third in terms of the mobile percentage of total Internet traffic, which is currently at 57%.