Zero-rate mobile data NOW so that education can continue during the COVID-19 pandemic

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URGENT CALL ON MOBILE NETWORK OPERATORS TO ZERO-RATE THE MOBILE SERVICES OF PUBLIC BENEFIT ORGANISATIONS TO ALLOW EARLY LEARNING AND EDUCATION TO CONTINUE DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.

The DG Murray Trust calls on mobile network operators; Vodacom South Africa, MTN South Africa, Telkom South Africa, rain South Africa and Cell C South Africa to urgently zero-rate the services of all public benefit organisations (PBOs) that provide digital content for early learning and education. In this way, preschool and schooling will be able to continue to some extent, reaching children on cellphones in their own homes. This is crucial, given the closure of early childhood development centres and schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DGMT CEO Dr David Harrison states that “the recommendation to zero-rate mobile content provided by PBOs is contained in the report of the Competition Commission into mobile data costs, and network operators have already indicated their willingness to implement that proposal.  The time to do it is now.” The network operators have already committed to this, so there is no reluctance to put this plan in motion from their part. It is only a question of time, as this must happen sooner than we all anticipated.

DGMT supports a number of community-level programmes which together reach hundreds of thousands of young children. They include the Nal’ibali national reading campaign, SmartStart early learning programme, Grow Great national zero-stunting campaign (which provides nutrition-related support and training to young mothers), Public Schools Partnerships, Activate! Leadership and JobStarter. All of these programmes will now rely heavily on mobile data to continue to reach and support practitioners, parents and children. In addition to these programmes, there are hundreds of other non-profit organisations providing services for early childhood development and literacy and numeracy development.  

“Access to these crucial services for education now rests squarely in the hands of the leadership of mobile network operators”, says Dr Harrison.  “The coronavirus will hit poorer communities hardest. We trust that they will take the lead in ensuring that its impact does not further erode the prospects for our nation’s children.”