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By Diego Gutierrez, Chief Officer: Vodacom International Markets
The scale and complexity of the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that governments across the continent need ongoing support to flatten the curve. Vodacom continues to partner with NGOs and multinationals to respond to the health crisis through a number of relief initiatives. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of technological innovation as well as regional cooperation between the private sector, governments and civil society in a time of crisis.
Vodacom services such as FTTB and FTTH have enabled businesses in Ghana to work remotely and ensure business continuity. These, together with the introduction of ‘Your Business Online’, offer support to businesses to build and grow digitally at a time when they need to reach a wider customer base. Through collaboration with the FlowMinder Foundation and Ghana Statistical Service, Vodacom gathered mobility insights from aggregated and anonymised data to help the Ghanaian government make informed decisions in the fight against the pandemic. Vodacom also zero-rated e-learning platforms for over 60 schools, including high schools, universities and polytechnics, to ensure minimal disruption to the education ecosystem. Additionally, the official government website was zero-rated to enable citizens to access daily updates on COVID -19.
In partnership with the Ministry of Health, Vodacom Tanzania has provided SMS awareness messaging to over 14 million subscribers on how to keep safe and guard against infection. Additionally, an awareness campaign was executed, allowing citizens to access various channels to get information relating to COVID-19.
Within the DRC, M-Pesa customers’ person-to-person transfers were zero-rated to reduce the exchange of cash - considered a conduit for the virus – while increasing wallet limits to $7,500. M-Pesa also supported the retail sector by allowing its citizens to shop digitally when the need for a low touch economy was critical. Maintaining network resilience during the pandemic remains a high priority, with Vodacom monitoring network and traffic congestion. This has proven vital for ongoing communication on safety measures, such as the #StopCoronavirus campaign, while Vodacom launched a service in partnership with Kirusa to provide informative content linked to COVID-19 by Dr Jean-Jacques Muyembe, coordinator of the COVID-19 response cell.
Vodacom implemented zero fees for merchant transactions of up to 50.00 Maloti and zero transaction fees for person to person money transfers of up to 100.00 Maloti. One thousand mobile phones were donated to the Lesotho Government, while allocating 120 free minutes monthly and 5GB data services to 6000 health workers over a three month period. Sanitisers and hand soaps, essential in the prevention of COVID-19, were donated to several orphanages and the COVID-19 command centre.
Keeping stakeholders in the ministry of health connected enabled them to perform critical work. To this end, Vodacom donated airtime, SIM cards and devices to the government. To further assist health workers,30 000 handwashing kits were donated. Additionally, academic websites were zero-rated to support continued learning.
During a time of great global uncertainty, Vodacom remains confident that a powerful combination of technology and partnerships will continue to provide invaluable support to citizens and governments across the continent.