BLOEMFONTEIN – Vodacom Central region works in communities in Free State and Northern Cape provinces and recognise that the country is faced with many social and economic challenges due to COVID-19. Thus as part of Social Contract and Purpose-led business approach, the region focussed its efforts on accelerating digital inclusion by a substantial investment in the network, lowering costs to communicate and helping government to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic through the use of technology, its core capability.
Research on shared value shows that shared trust in business has fallen to new lows as companies are thought to be prospering at the expense of their communities. As a result big corporates, such as Vodacom, ought to be responsive to the environment in which they exist and use own resources to transform societies by responding directly to the many socio-economic problems affecting local communities.
Mamello Selamolela, Managing Executive for Vodacom Central region said: “We realise the importance of an inclusive approach, hence we are developing and rolling out our initiatives to alleviate poverty and inequality by democratising education, providing digital products and services that empower women and youth, and promote diversity and transformation across our workplace and supply chain. In addition to driving digital inclusion, we are promoting environmental sustainability by investing in climate-smart networks and solutions, developing water wise practices for our operation and customers and minimising waste across our value chain.”
For example, Vodacom Central region’s networks and technologies, including 3G and 4G mobile, fibre-optic broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are transforming businesses of all sizes in that province, helping them to operate more efficiently and prosper. The region’s capex of over R120 million to maintain and upgrade the telco’s digital infrastructure will provide their customers, their families, communities and businesses with the means to connect, learn, share, trade and advance their ambitions. A total of 37 new sites will be deployed during this financial year, the bulk of these will be rolled out in deep rural areas to ensure that people in rural areas become part of the Internet Age and reap economic benefits.
There is a proven link between increased internet access and economic growth, so by providing connectivity in urban, rural and township areas of our country, Vodacom Central region is playing a crucial role in driving Free State and Northern Cape economies.
To respond to the need to bring down the cost to communicate and promote digital inclusion, in March the region announced a range of initiatives. These include: price reductions of up to 40% across all monthly bundles and by launching ConnectU, a zero-rated platform that provides content aimed at social development and offers a variety of essential services free of charge. The platform is assisting customers in these tough economic times and ensuring digital inclusion for all.
Two months ago, Free State province was in the news with fears that cases of COVID-19 would skyrocket following an outbreak of the corona virus during a church service in Bloemfontein. Vodacom Central region played a key role in combatting the spread of COVID-19 across the province, by working with the provincial Department of Health to provide population movement insights. This was done through location services, based on aggregated and anonymised information extracted from high-level activity of a subset of Vodacom subscribers. Further, the region donated 2 442 smartphones to help frontline health workers to collect and transmit data in real time for resource-planning purposes as government accelerates its COVID-19 testing campaign.
The region has made good strides in fulfilling its purpose to connect people from that region for a better future. They have done this by democratising education through ICTs by connecting many schools to the net via computer labs and eight teacher centre across the province.
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, by the end of June this year, the region will have provided 1000 female learners the opportunity to learn how to code through Vodacom’s ‘Code like a Girl” programme.
Furthermore, in March 2019, 51 unemployed youth based in Free State and Northern Cape underwent 24 demanding months of theory, practicals and work-based placement training in A+, N+ and 3G connectivity, and were certified with diplomas in Information Technology Technical Support at Vodacom’s Free State-based Youth Academy.
“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. What we do matters; but so does how we work. 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 Selamolela.