Rural communities stand to benefit significantly from the R60 million community wireless mesh network project which is a response to one of government’s strategic priorities – rural development ( Mesh Network).

In the context of government’s Integrated Sustainable Rural Development Programme, and existing research and development initiatives by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Meraka Institute (, the project is being rolled out at municipal ward level in the Sekhukhune District of Limpopo Province, JT Gaetsewe Kgalagadi District in the Northern Cape and Nkangala District in Mpumalanga.

The project aims to take broadband infrastructure to rural communities and equip individuals there with the necessary entrepreneurial and technical skills to build and operate large area wireless networks. Such networks are also known as community wireless networks.

This is a grassroots-up approach to rolling out infrastructure in areas where unemployment is high, a large portion of the adult population has had no formal education and the weak skills base constrains economic growth.  By September 2010, 180 schools in the Nkangala District Municipality had been connected to the wireless mesh network and, and of these, 114 had been connected
to the Internet. Nineteen village operators had been trained and set up, and technical training in wireless mesh network technology had been given to a further 50 young people.

By the end of the project hopefully 45 small enterprises run by village operators will have been established and given Internet-access, and 450 government sites, most of them schools, will have the use of voice-over-Internet protocol. This technology allows telephone calls to be made using computer networks.

The community wireless mesh network project recognises that rural and marginalised communities have limited opportunities for sustainable business, a lack of access to information communication technologies (which can spur economic development),
sub-optimal government services where government offices are isolated from telecommunications infrastructure, a lack of support of maintenance of information communication technology infrastructure, and human capacity development.

Shortcomings in the provision of services to certain rural communities are attributed to settlements being remote, and widely dispersed for historical reasons.  Giving communities access to community wireless networks should help site2016 this.