STATEMENT – Vodacom announces free internet access for univ. students

Nineteen of 23 South African universities already have free internet access.

The cost to communicate in South Africa has been a hot topic in recent times, given the impact of the economic slowdown on the South African consumer and global trends on the cost of data.

In response to this, Vodacom’s pricing transformation strategy, anchored by personalised packages aimed at giving customers greater value, has over the past four years produced a reduction in the price of data and voice by more than 60% and 57%, respectively.

Vodacom acknowledges more needs to be done to enable South Africans to enjoy the social benefits of connectivity and the associated costs.

It remains committed to addressing data cost transformation and building on its Siyakha platform that offers zero-rated portals for school pupils and job seekers.

Having already zero-rated the charge to key basic education sites and career portals, Vodacom has now decided to zero-rate services to universities for students and staff who are Vodacom subscribers.

This is in a bid to help address cost challenges associated with access to educational content and remote learning for institutions of higher learning.

Through this approach, Vodacom has already given free internet access to 19 of the 23 South African universities, including the University of Cape Town (UCT).

UCT vice-chancellor Dr Max Price said students and other eligible users would have access to the free service.

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Free internet access to students and staff had until now been accessible only through the Edu-roam Wi-Fi platform in the vicinity of the university and its residences.

Price said: “UCT is grateful to Vodacom for providing such an important resource to our students and staff. The service will be very useful to our students as it will enable them to do their work off-campus without worrying about data costs or without having the need to travel to campus.”

In the case of UCT, the sites will be accessible through specific URLs that will provide addresses to particular web pages and files.

The identified addresses will include UCT’s website, its online library and other important classroom and general interactive university websites.

For requirements over and above the zero-rated content, Vodacom has launched an e-rate, billing all data traffic to agreed sites at 50% of the normal data rates for all universities.

“Many learners in our country often cannot afford – and don’t have access to – learning material such as textbooks,” said Vodacom’s managing executive for the Western Cape region, Alberts Breed.

“This intervention is a demonstration of Vodacom’s core belief that information and communication technology (ICT) and mobile technology can be utilised to improve and advance learning, address skills development and help in finding employment.”

Breed added: “Many learners in our country often cannot afford – and don’t have access to – learning material such as textbooks, which makes excelling at school more difficult. As an investor in the country and an established partner in addressing social challenges, Vodacom’s goal is to contribute to ensuring that learners throughout the country have access to some of the educational tools to help enhance their learning experience.”

He emphasised that education was not just a government issue, but that the private sector and the general public were also to play pivotal roles in providing access to higher education and further education and training.

Other Vodacom zero-rated sites include:

1.) The Mobile Education programme, which is Vodacom’s holistic approach to ensuring sustainable benefits to educators and learners by providing internet connectivity, ICT equipment, content and teacher training through 92 ICT resources centres across the country.

2.) The Vodacom Tries for Books campaign – an educational content application that is freely available on tablets at the ICT resource centres.

3.) The e- library has been stocked with e-books made available by publishing partners including Via Afrika, Oxford University Press, Shuter & Shooter and FunDza.

4.) Internet connectivity and access to the e-libraries are free.

5.) In a bid to help address skills development and job creation within the ICT sector, Vodacom – together with its partners MICT-Seta, Cisco, CompTia, Microsoft, the Independent Development Trust and Cisco – embarked on a drive to help empower unemployed youth with ICT skills training. The partnership teaches unemployed youths ICT skills and helps develop them into ICT entrepreneurs. To date, 923 trainees have gained basic computer, enterprise development and business skills through the programme.

(by Vodacom Foundation)

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Customers urged to put pressure on mobile operators to cut data costs

South Africa is said to be the most expensive worldwide after Brazil.

MTN and Vodacom users have been urged to do something in order to put pressure on these operators to cut data costs.

Connection Telecom managing director David Meintjes said the only way data can be reduced is through protest.

Meintjes was speaking during the MyBroadband Cloud, Hosting, and Security Conference in Midrand (10 May).

Meintjes’ comment comes in light of the launch of the #DataMustFall campaign late last year which complained about the high prices South Africans pay to be online.

Customers urged to put pressure on mobile operators cut data costs

David Mentjies, Connection Telecoms

“And prices will only decline if we put pressure on them,” he said at the Gallagher estate, adding that regulators of these operators must also be pressurised.

Global System Mobile Association or GSMA predicted a 57% compound annual growth rate for mobile data usage between 2014 and 2019 – from 2.5 exabytes to 24.3 exabytes.

An exabyte is a unit of information equal to one billion gigabytes.

Therefore, in the next few years data service revenues will start to make up more than 50% of total mobile service profits.

Meintjes challenged the idea that data profits would increase because of decreasing voice revenues, saying voice profits are not going to decline significantly, and that mobile operators will continue to make more money unless prices decline.

(edited by ZK)

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