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Saisai Wireless: Free internet access for Zimbabweans

One startup in Zimbabwe is working to ensure that anyone can access the internet for free. Launched in 2014, Saisai Wireless is a bandwidth redistribution wireless mesh network, operating in public areas and public transportation. Takunda Chingonzo, co-founder of the startup, says that: “Saisai is the internet for Africa.”

“We are creating [something] that is based around the core principles of resource availability and how we, as Africans, relate to each other and to technology,” he adds.

He argues that in maximizing the internet reach and coverage at the lowest and cheapest possible cost by increasing the distribution, the startup addresses Africa’s major challenges of internet connectivity, access and availability.

How it works

The Saisai idea was born out of the founders’ realization that many companies and institutions in Africa have large periods of time when their internet capacity is not being used to full. To counteract this the startup places the Saisai device on their network, and this securely feeds this extra bandwidth to its network giving users free access to the internet, at no extra cost for these companies.

You need to select the open Wi-Fi network named “Saisai”. To use the network, users have to login through their social media accounts,  Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or any other recognized account. You then need to allow the app to access your basic account details. These steps will then let you access the web and enjoy browsing.

“But Saisai is more than just a way of accessing the internet,” says Chingonzo; “it is a named data network, where content creators of all sorts can create content and allow for fast redistribution of their content without the need for servers, using peer-to-peer protocols native to the network”.

With over 400,000 unique users per month and with over 10,000 in Harare’s Central Business District alone, Chingonzo is confident that the startup is truly revolutionary and going to the right direction. 

The benefits for Zimbabwe and Africa

In a continent that features abject poverty, political unrest, low levels of literacy and economic redundancies; and in a country well represented in these areas, Chingonzo is of the view that startups and tech innovations are what is needed for Africa and Zimbabwe’s economic turnaround.

“The capability of startups to churn out disruptive innovations that transform industries will bring about the solutions that we need,” he observes. “We are our own solution to the problems that affect us as a country and continent, challenges in tech advancement and the issues of lack of employment.”

He believes his startup “is going to become a gateway for local developers, curators, content creators and internet users, to reach their targeted consumers. The objective is therefore to bridge the digital divide, by redistributing access to the internet and getting everyone online; the opportunities that lie in achieving this are just mind blowing.”

By providing these services, the startup is offering a means by which many players in different industries can thrive. “The only way that we can grow,” says Chingonzo “is by ensuring that those around us also grow, that way, we become an unstoppable force of growth and sustainable development!”

“I believe that there are a lot more people like me, and even better, and more capable than me [in Africa],” he adds. “It is our job to seek out these people, and ignite that passion to want to build our beloved nation and beautiful continent! We are but a means to a greater end! We are our own solution!”

Chingonzo is also the co-founder of Neolab, a multi award-winning company working on technologies benefitting emerging economies, and another startup called Neoeffect, a social outfit with an objective of training entrepreneurs and increasing IT literacy for the less privileged.

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Daniel Muraga

Daniel Muraga is an experienced online writer and communications professional based in Kenya.

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