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UJ and City of Johannesburg launch digital empowerment for communities

The City of Johannesburg in partnership with the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Friday, 7 August 2015, launched the much anticipated R80-million Jozi Digital Ambassadors programme, which is designed to bridge the digital divide across the metropolitan municipality.

This is after the City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor, Cllr Parks Tau announced in his 2015 State of the City Address, which was anchored on youth empowerment, that under the partnership with UJ "groups of young people will also have access to our Digital Ambassadors programme". 

As part of the roll out of 1 000 Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the city, recruitment and assessment of 3 000 Digital Ambassadors has begun through Vulindlel' eJozi – a youth programme by the City in partnership with Harambee Youth Accelerator, which is a youth empowerment non-governmental organisation. 

These digi-entrepreneurs are each set to be equipped with a tablet to go into Johannesburg's various communities to train up to 720 000 households in digital literacy. The training will take place over a period of 18 months to enable residents to utilise and benefit from the broadband connections in their areas – through the Jozi Digital Ambassadors programme – to be spearheaded by the youth. 

"We are a city where the young lead the call for transformation, demanding the opportunity to work, to improve their lives, and become the best of what they can be," Mayor Tau said. 

"As the City of Johannesburg, we know and understand that with just a little help, our youth are not the challenge some think them to be, but our greatest asset. 

This is why we are investing so much in the youth of this City. This is in line with our developmental local government approach to the implementation of the 2040 Growth and Development S​trategy," said Mayor Tau.

The Jozi Digital Ambassadors programme will be running through a new City portal called "Maru a Jozi" which is a Setswana phrase for "Joburg clouds". 

Some 50% of Johannesburg's 4.8 million residents currently have no regular access to the Internet and Mayor Tau said the City is in the process of correcting this.

He described the Maru a Jozi portal as "a simple cloud platform which enables free access to a range of basic on-line services through a one simple to use portal designed for people with low levels of experience using the mobile internet".

Head of School at the UJ School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Prof Johan Meyer added: "The Jozi Digital Ambassadors programme will enable the broader Johannesburg community to engage with digital technology, for example in online job seeking opportunities, banking applications and access to digital services."

He also pointed out that the Jozi Digital Ambassadors will be mentored in business acumen towards achieving competence in using the digital world as an enabling technology for their own innovation enterprises.