How about some free Internet browsing with your ice cold beverage? Coca-Cola and British Telecom are teaming up to test out Wi-Fi-enabled vending machines in South Africa, hoping to bring invaluable online access to some of the poorest communities in the world. The scheme will start in two locations to begin with before rolling out further if it proves a success.
Web access can make a huge difference to education, healthcare and innovation within a community and both companies behind the project want to improve the opportunities available to local people. As yet there’s no word on whether the Wi-Fi-beaming boxes will expand globally — but it certainly hasn’t done McDonald’s any harm.
The Wi-Fi will be free to access and no Coke purchase is required to take advantage of it. The two sites chosen — in in Qunu, Umtata and Bushbuckridge, Mpumalanga — are close to schools, shopping centers and taxi ranks. These sites were “strategically chosen for their accessibility” according to the press release put out by BT.
“We believe that by giving them access to free Wi-Fi we will enable students and school children in the area to increase their knowledge through research while also giving entrepreneurs and small business owners in the community the opportunity to manage some of their business aspects online,” said David Visser, the Chief Information Officer of Coca-Cola South Africa.
Oliver Fortuin, the Managing Director of BT Global Services in sub-Saharan Africa, chimed in as well: “We are delighted to… be involved in a project that will give under-served communities much improved access to information and education opportunities… As well as providing access, we want to help people use technology to apply their creativity and harness the possibilities of today’s connected world.”
For now the emphasis is very much on providing Wi-Fi to those who don’t have a smartphone in their back pocket or a Starbucks around the corner, but there’s no reason why Wi-Fi vending machines couldn’t roll out worldwide as the Internet of Things gets ever bigger.