Many South Africans are facing new challenges as the country braces itself to limit the spread of COVID-19. The weeks and months ahead will bring with them much uncertainty at a time when our economy is weak, requiring a massive collective effort to assist government as it works to cope with additional pressures brought on by COVID-19.
Helping to address societal challenges, such as that posed by COVID-19, is part of the Vodacom Group’s broader commitment to create a Social Contract with its stakeholders in the markets where it operates. Vodacom’s priority is the health and safety of its employees while continuing to connect, deliver services and support our customers, and in this the company is guided by the Presidency, the Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.
Shameel Joosub, Chief Executive Officer of Vodacom Group, said: “Vodacom can play a critical role in supporting society during this unprecedented time and is committed to doing its utmost during this rapidly evolving situation. We will endeavour to put measures in place to keep South Africans connected to their family and friends and to ensure businesses can continue to run using remote working in this time of national challenge. At the same time, we are ramping up efforts to support learners with their studies now that schools are having an unscheduled, longer holiday.”
These measures include:
• We have well developed business continuity plans in place for dealing with events of this nature, including co-ordinated regional and international incident management, response plans and the increased ability for Vodacom employees to work remotely without disruption. • We have a dedicated COVID-19 team working to maintain the level of service our customers expect from us, and we have made available various digital offerings to support enterprise clients. Our day-to-day operations will continue and should not be affected during this period.
• In partnership with the Department of Health, we are providing SMS awareness messaging to over 44 million subscribers on hygiene etiquette.
• The data, voice and connectivity services that we offer will allow customers to stay connected while reducing social contact. We are making sure we have sufficient network capacity to enable people and businesses to work seamlessly from home. Communication is an essential service and since ours is a sector of sectors, the availability of our network is key to the effective functioning of all the other sectors of the economy.
• To date we have not experienced significant device and / or hardware supply disruptions. We are putting further measures in place to avoid disruptions and are working closely with our suppliers and partners.
• Vodacom will continue to provide its zero rated and premium Mum and Baby maternal health and education services to pregnant women and caregivers. This service assists women and caregivers to avoid long queues to access services.
• To assist with education while learners and students are on extended leave, Vodacom has put in place the following:
1. Vodacom’s e-School platform is already used by almost 900 000 learners. We have now significantly increased server capacity to ensure that increased numbers of users enjoy a seamless experience. e-School is free for all Vodacom subscribers and carries content in all 11 official languages from Grade R to 12. Content includes assignments, quizzes and learning videos that are fully aligned with the CAPS curriculum. The service is accessible via mobile devices, tablets, laptops and desktops. Students using e-School will be able to complete homework questions, revise some of the work they have already done at school, browse past exam papers, get tips and advice on how to improve their marks, download subject material and watch content-related videos. E-School can be accessed through our ConnectU portal on connectu.vodacom.co.za. 2. We are engaging with public universities to ensure maximum use of the zero-rated platforms already in place as well as seeking to connect the public Universities and TVET colleges that currently do not make use of these free services.
3. Vodacom Foundation has purchased and is providing anti-bacterial hand soaps to its 12 schools of excellence, 11 ECD Centres and 10 Youth Academies for a period of six months, and have provided posters with messaging for hygiene etiquette.
We have emphasised our willingness and commitment to assist governments where we operate, and do whatever we can to help. Success will depend on citizens taking collective responsibility for preventing the spread of this pandemic. We are all in this together, so we urge South Africans to follow government and health service advice and to take care of themselves and their families.