Isizwe offers unlimited WiFi access in townships and informal settlements on a low-cost, pay-per-use basis. Users pay R5 (~$0.33) for 24-hours of internet access compared to the average cost in South Africa of R100 ($6.63) per gigabyte.
To deliver the service, Isizwe builds WiFi Zones with hardware that connects to Internet Service Providers (ISPs). This enables Isizwe to provide internet access in low-income locations without having to invest in building expensive backhaul infrastructure. The result is WiFi Zones within walking distance of every home, with one WiFi Zone covering approximately 100 homes.
By operating its WiFi Zones in underserved communities, Isizwe reaches GIF’s target beneficiaries in South Africa and empowers them by providing access to income-enhancing information, health information and an expanded social network. Isizwe fits with GIF’s overall proposition as an investor to provide early-stage capital for social ventures where there is a limited amount of commercial capital. The public provision of WiFi, as a viable, scalable business model serving BoP customers remains unproven. GIF’s funding at this early stage will help validate and de-risk the business model and crowd in commercial capital in subsequent investment rounds.
Theory of Change
Isizwe reaches the most marginalized populations in South Africa and empowers them through the following impact channels:
• Providing access to income-enhancing information – Internet provides access to information that can improve productivity, employment opportunities, and other income-enhancing opportunities.
• Providing access to health information – Internet provides access to information on basic health care that can improve health and reduce the incidence of disease.
• Improved learning outcomes – Internet provides access to information and facilitates connections to educational resources and virtual labs.
• Improved social inclusion – Internet allows individuals to connect to friends and family all over the world, which promotes social cohesion by reducing feelings of isolation and improving relationships.
• Savings on data costs – WiFi Zones are located in underserved communities and offer substantial data cost savings compared to the alternative of using mobile data.