Civil society organisation and black empowerment lobby group, Transform RSA (TRSA) has called on cellular network providers to freeze data costs amid the global outbreak of the coronavirus (Covid-19). Almost a week ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the outbreak of Covid-19 national state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act.
In a statement, the organisation said: “As South Africa and the world battles through this crisis, it is imperative that the poor are empowered through information. Access to information is critical in ensuring that poor communities can effectively monitor digital news and information concerning the Covid-19 so as to enter into informed dialogue around the outbreak. An estimated third of South Africans with smart phones cannot afford data to use the internet, we are in effect condemning the poor to having great devices that do not serve.
“We call on all mobile operators to freeze data costs and offer free data for the remaining month of March until May 2020 until the pandemic has been declared no longer a national emergency. This measure will assist as the country tries to manage this crisis which has the potential of claiming many lives,” said the organisation.
The lobby group added that the closure of work places, schools and institutions of higher learning and other slowing down of industrial activities, travel restrictions, social distancing, self-isolation and a prohibition on gatherings of more than 100 people are among the measures already in effect to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Providing free data and free communication access will assist in curbing the pandemic spread,” said Katlego Raphuthi, a spokesperson for the organisation.
She added: “In his State of the Nation Address in February 2020, President Ramaphosa highlighted the importance of free daily data allocations to poor communities to aid access to information, improve lives and bring people into the digital economy. We also encourage employers to allow employees and workers to work from home during this crisis.
“Transform RSA therefore, calls on the president to also pronounce a 3 months free data for all starting the month of March, April, May 2020 and to rally behind the call by TRSA because ultimately access to information is vital in empowering all citizens, including the vulnerable and excluded poor masses and communities in South Africa,” she said.
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