Govt pledges digital support to education and communication

25th March 2020 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

Telecommunications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams on March 25 assured that government and the private sector were working together to ensure that telecommunications networks were not hampered from providing communications services during South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown period.

With a significant increase in the number of people working from home and a hike in real-time information dissemination, particularly as the country settles in for a 21-day nationwide lockdown, it is critical to keep communication channels operating and seamless.

“One envisages a situation where there will be too much traffic on the network. As government and the department [of Telecommunications and Digital Technologies], it is important to provide the capability to those that are providing the network,” she said during a press briefing.

In line with this, the department assured bandwidth would be increased and that the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa pledged spectrum relief for operators by releasing the required spectrum temporarily and in accordance with the law, with the infrastructure deployed track and the spectrum to be returned, if possible, once the restrictions were eased.

She also said that service providers had agreed to zero-rate education, government and nongovernmental organisations' websites, and provide data analytics services that would assist government during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Any price hikes during this period has also been prohibited.

“It is high time to work together to minimize the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” she told media, as various Ministers outline the efforts of the various departments to stick to the measures announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa to slow the spread of the virus in South Africa.

Further, with the disruption of the education sector, and the need to mitigate the impact, the department, in partnership with the Department of Basic Education, is working to provide broadcast and virtual classrooms, with one South African Broadcasting Corporation channel to be dedicated to education.

Online resources have been compiled to support learning at home during the lockdown.