In June 2018, Glencore Coal embarked on a mission to empower local communities by offering free Wi-Fi in its operation area.

Initially, Glencore set up ten free Wi-Fi hotspots in Ogies and Phola in the eMalahleni Municipality. The project’s immediate success prompted them to continue with the rollout and over the next two years, the company expanded their offering into both Steve Tshwete and Emakhazeni Municipalities. Today there are 30 hotspots where the communities can enjoy free Wi-Fi offered by Glencore’s partner, Project Isizwe.

The community management team at Glencore Coal. Photo by Glencore

The community management team at Glencore Coal. Photo by Glencore

Since the inception of the Wi-Fi project, Glencore has been monitoring total data usage. If one considers the high data costs in South Africa, offering free data to rural communities equates to massive saving to communities. How much? Glencore has reached the 100 million mark with a total community savings of R102 075 369,00 in data costs. Some of the notable milestones include the highest number of users in a single day with 8 134 users who used 1 317GB of data on 20 January 2021. Currently, the mines host communities are consuming more than 28 000 GB of data for free, each month.

The Wi-Fi project forms part of Glencore’s commitment to build sustainable communities and empower its community members in Ogies, Phola, Kwa-Guqa, Kriel, Middelburg and Wonderfontein. By providing free Wi-Fi, the company has enabled students to increase their knowledge through research and access to e-Learning platforms and provide a connected, stimulating environment for local entrepreneurs and business owners to grow.

Shireen Powell, chief operating officer of Isizwe, says: “We are happy to collaborate with Glencore and provide connectivity to people. Our vision is to connect the entire nation, and it is partners like Glencore, who are the true heroes. They enable us to empower African communities.” Glencore says that their focus for 2021 and beyond is to expand their offering.