The new coronavirus, which causes Covid-19, has hit Mzansi. In a society as unequal as ours, we must ensure that communications, safety measures and mental well-being are equitably distributed. This makes keeping informed; communicating with others and feeling connected with one’s community and society at large essential for people’s mental well-being and to curb the spread of misinformation. But this is an additional expense not many people can afford. Mobile network providers cannot look at this crisis and sit in silence. Here's what they should be doing; all local news sites should be zero-rated to ensure people can know what is happening in the world around them. Low-income consumers should be provided at least a 3GB monthly bundle and 5 free daily SMSes per day for the next 3 months, with an additional 3-month extension, should the crisis not yet be over. This will ensure that people are able to remain connected to their loved ones and society at large, also able to keep informed about how best to protect themselves and their communities.
Dear Shameel Joosub (Vodacom), Rob Shuter (MTN), Sipho Maseko (Telkom) and Douglas Craigie Stevenson (CellC)
South Africa is currently in a national state of disaster and is therefore highly relying on the service provided by the companies you lead to access news, information about how we protect ourselves and our communities and to stay connected with others. We, the undersigned, call on you to implement the following for three months, with a further three-month extension if the crisis continues:
- Zero-rate all local news sites;
- Provide low-income consumers with at least 3GB monthly data and
- Provide 5 free SMSes, so people can connect with their loved ones who may not be using web-enabled phones.