Diego Gutierrez, Vodacom Group International Markets: Chief Officer
As a leading African technology company, Vodacom is making critical information and resources available to help governments across the continent mitigate the effects of COVID-19. Having implemented numerous initiatives in recent times, we are drawing on this experience to enhance our response to COVID-19 in the countries where we operate. These include, most notably, Vodacom South Africa’s donation of 20 000 smartphones plus 100 terabytes of data and 10 million voice call minutes to the National Department of Health to help with its COVID-19 testing campaign, as well as Vodacom’s partnership with Discovery Health, a medical scheme administrator, to provide free virtual doctor consultations to the general public to diagnose and treat the virus.
From the DRC to Tanzania, our operations have implemented a number of activities and initiatives which focus on connecting people and providing access to health, education and information through various digital channels. Some of these initiatives include:
Vodacom is implementing a zero-rated COVID-19 information short code for the Ministry of Health in the DRC that allows the general public to seek advice around COVID-19 symptoms. It has zero rated all government websites and applications that inform the public about the pandemic. Vodacom DRC is also creating a zero-rated ConnectU platform to share information around the virus. A regular SMS broadcast is sent to Vodacom DRC’s entire customer base with information and updates from the government.
Vodacom Lesotho has donated 1000 devices to monitor the outbreak. It is sponsoring a toll-free call centre, as well as a WhatsApp line, to inform and answer questions about the virus. Vodacom is sponsoring radio communication from the Ministry of Health concerning COVID-19. Key health (WHO and Ministry of Health) and educational sites have been zero rated. The Vodacom Lesotho team has also allocated data and voice minutes to 6 000 health workers to support their efforts during this time.
A WhatsApp Bot has been created for the Mozambique government to disseminate vital information and updates to the public. Vodacom is offering support and engaging with the government on a regular basis, as well as working to provide free internet for the government e-learning portal with the Minister of Higher Learning, Science and Technology. This connects 160 universities and 215 000 students. Extending further support to doctors and nurses is currently under consideration and Vodacom is providing connectivity to ministries, airports and NGOs on request. Vodacom Mozambique plans to provide free data and voice packages to healthcare workers.
Vodacom Tanzania has donated $1 million to the country’s Central Government committee, which is driving National Response Plans concerning COVID-19. This will be used to purchase equipment. Vodacom has provided a free data link to the Tanzanian government to facilitate communication with COVID-19 teams, as well as free SMSes to provide information and updates to the general public. All government sites relating to COVID-19 are now zero-rated. The COVID-19 Service, which can be accessed by SMS, IVR or USSD and Vodacom Live Service, will remain free in Tanzania. The Vodacom Tanzania Foundation is providing the Ministry of Health with mobile routers and bundles to assist them in their response efforts. We are strongly encouraging the use of mobile money across all of our operations, wherever possible, as contactless services may help mitigate the pandemic.
Vodacom remains committed to finding innovative ways to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus. Through collaboration and technology, we can provide support to those who need it the most in the coming months. We extend our deepest gratitude to all healthcare workers across the continent for their selflessness and courage at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19. We remain ready to continue supporting governments in our operations across the continent, in whatever way we can.