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PORT ELIZABETH – Vodacom Eastern Cape region works across communities that are trapped in a cycle of poverty due to high unemployment and underdevelopment in that province and recognises that it has both a critical responsibility and a great opportunity to provide societal value through its core business activities.
There is also a growing expectation for big business to serve a social purpose, and to use their resources and core capabilities to make a meaningful contribution to the countries and communities in which Vodacom operates.
In this regard, Vodacom continues to help drive impact against the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and specifically those that relate to quality education, gender equality, decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, and climate action.
Speaking at a media round table event in Port Elizabeth earlier today, Mpumelelelo Khumalo, Managing Executive for Vodacom Eastern Cape, said: “Being a purpose-led company, Vodacom’s ambition is to improve the lives of all our customers in the Eastern Cape. It is an ambitious goal, however we believe that it is possible because we are in the business of connecting and enabling people to make those connections. We are optimistic about the capabilities of technology and connectivity to transform the lives of our communities.”
“On a daily basis, we help our customers and other stakeholders understand new technological solutions and be ready to use it in a responsible way to enhance their lives and the societies they live in. Vodacom is committed to enabling a digital society so that there is better economic prospects for our communities. Digital services, such as our IoT platforms, are quickly becoming the new engines of growth for economic prosperity and sustainable development.”
To ensure that the full benefits of digital technologies are shared, Vodacom Eastern region continues to expand the deep rural and township coverage of its networks and the availability of low-cost 3G and 4G enabled devices to keep consumers, especially those in remote areas to get connected in this Digital Age.
For example, Vodacom Eastern region networks and technologies, including 3G and 4G mobile, fibre-optic broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are transforming the lives of ordinary people and together with businesses of all sizes in that province, helping them to operate more efficiently and prosper. The region’s capex of R318 million to maintain and upgrade the telco’s digital infrastructure, provides customers, their families, communities and businesses with the means to connect, learn, share, trade and advance their ambitions. A total of 46 new sites will be deployed in this financial year alone, with 30 of these rolled out in deep rural areas to ensure that people in rural areas part of the Internet Age underway and reap the economic benefits. The capex will grow 4G coverage by deploying an additional 266 4G sites to cover over 75% of the province’s population.
The bulk of this year’s investment will go towards transmission upgrade of 268 microwave and 88 Fiber optic links enabling 4Gdata capabilities to base stations.
Providing network connectivity for people who reside in rural areas is a high priority for Vodacom and is part of our vision to make sure that we connect everyone no matter where they live. We have committed to a substantial investment to help remove barriers so that citizens in rural and township areashave the same network experience as those who reside in urban areas. The region plans to deploy 30 new sites in deep rural areas of Matatiele; Bizana; Flagstaff; Lusikisiki; Port St Johns; Lebode; Elliotdale; Dutywa; Butterworth; Ngcobo; Ngqamakwe and Komani areas in this financial period.
The region has made good strides in fulfilling its purpose is to connect people from that region for a better future. They have done this by democratising education through ICTs by connecting 23 schools to the net via computer labs and 14 teacher centre across the province.
In June of this year, the region also launched a sustainable living initiative. During the first phase of this project, the region has undertaken crop farming transformation to create sustainable living through food security and improving operational excellence in farming by introducing smart technology. During “Mandela Month”, the regions employees became part of a continuous global movement for good by handing over a nutritional garden of 100m2 that will feed over 1200 preschoolers from the ages 0-5 years, belonging in 38 Early Childhood Development centers in the Nelson Mandela Municipality.
Equality of women remains a significant global challenge. By empowering women and promoting gender equality, we can enable communities, economies and businesses – including our own – to prosper. Vodacom in partnership with UN Women has trained 100 small-scale female farmers from Umtata, Qumbu, Ngqeleni, Mdantsane, Cala, Idutywa, Queenstown, King Williams Town, Lady Frere in digital literacy for today’s digital economy and knowledge society.
High levels of youth unemployment and a growing digital skills gap are significant social and economic challenges facing South Africa. To help alleviate this, Vodacom offers programmes to help young people develop their digital skills and access learning and employment opportunities so they can thrive in the digital economy. For example, in July, the region provided 50 school-going female learners from Uitenhage High School and Cacadu High School in Lady Frere the opportunity to learn how to code through Vodacom’s ‘Code like a Girl” programme. This investment by Vodacom in digital skills training programmes for young women will help to narrow the gender digital divide at an early age in South Africa. Earlier this year, the region embarked on an initiative each week to showcase to high-school children how the jobs of today would be very different in the future in light of 4th Industrial Revolution.
Furthermore, to ensure that voice and data is affordable to all, Vodacom launched its Just4Your Town platform by dialing *123*4#, Vodacom customers can connect for as little as R2.
“A commitment to ensuring that business goals and societal benefits are as aligned as possible is even more important amid public mistrust of multinational corporations and governments. All our investments in the province provide different demographic groups – rich and poor, young and old, educated and unskilled – with the ability to connect, learn and advance their ambitions,” concluded Khumalo.