ICT firms dedicate millions to bolster SA's COVID-19 fight

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 23 Mar 2020

Huawei Technologies and JSE-listed Telkom have made financial commitments to the value of R16 million, to help SA’s efforts in fighting coronavirus (COVID-19).

This as the country’s infection rate escalates, with 274 positive coronavirus cases confirmed, so far. Across the globe, the number of cases has now surpassed 300 000, with over 14 000 deaths and more than 99 000 recoveries recorded.

On Friday, Chinese technology giant Huawei donated R1 million to the Department of Health (DOH), to support SA’s fight and containment of the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Huawei SA CEO Spawn Fan says: “We are a committed ICT and social partner to South African business, government and society; this donation is our obligation as a concerned party.”

According to Fan, digital connectivity would help to make the management and containment of the virus more efficient.

“We believe in the power of connectivity and technology, and we are committed to harnessing ICT in the fight against coronavirus in South Africa and on the continent.

“In China, we saw the success of remote education, remote health services and working from home during quarantine periods. Coronavirus is not just a threat to life, its knock-on effects on livelihoods and the economy must also be managed.”

The DOH also received a R2 million donation from the South Africa-China Economic and Trade Association, which, according to health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize, will be used for testing and managing the outbreak.

From left to right: Chinese ambassador to SA Lin Songtian, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and Huawei SA CEO Spawn Fan.
From left to right: Chinese ambassador to SA Lin Songtian, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and Huawei SA CEO Spawn Fan.

Taking a page from Huawei, Telkom also announced its financial contribution to the COVID-19 fight, pledging R15 million.

The JSE-listed company notes the resilience of the public health system will be severely tested at this time, adding the pledge is part of its multi-pronged approach to support the country’s efforts to contain the spread of the disease.

Upon the local outbreak of COVID-19, Telkom, along with other telcos, announced various data cost-saving efforts. Telkom is zero-rating access to official coronavirus information sites as well as access to learning material for universities and public schools on its network.

CEO Sipho Maseko explained the R15 million will be used to support healthcare workers who are at the frontline of the battle against the spread of deadly coronavirus, especially in the country’s most vulnerable communities.

Maseko states: “We believe it is up to each one of us to do what we can to flatten the curve and reduce the possible impact of this virus, particularly for those who rely on the public health system.

“Our business continuity and emergency response measures are in place to support increased demand for broadband bandwidth and voice calls across both the fixed and mobile network.”

The company has invited other South African corporations and members of the public to contribute to strengthening the public health system. “Telkom challenges all South Africans to contribute. It’s time for us to come together and work in solidarity and community,” states Maseko.

Members of the public can donate by dialling the following premium-rated short codes from any network to:

36757 – R5 donation

38771 – R10 donation

40773 – R20 donation

Telkom group CEO Sipho Maseko.
Telkom group CEO Sipho Maseko.

Masks for Africa

Meanwhile, the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have shipped over six million medical supplies, including face masks, test kits and protective suits and face shields, to help the African continent fight coronavirus.

The donation is part of the relief initiative of the foundations’ global efforts, to contain the spread of COVID-19 and provide aid to afflicted communities across the globe.

The supplies, which arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, yesterday, are made up of 5.4 million face masks, kits for 1.08 million detection tests, 40 000 sets of protective clothing and 60 000 sets of protective face shields.

They will be transported and distributed throughout the rest of the continent, while the remaining shipments of medical supplies are expected to reach Addis Ababa and be distributed to more African nations over the next few weeks.

“Getting these donations to all 54 African countries, with diverse geographic conditions and different levels of infrastructure, is a great logistical and transportation challenge. We are working around the clock to make the delivery as fast as possible. The faster we move, the earlier we can help,” states the Jack Ma Foundation.

COVID-19 medical donations from Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation.
COVID-19 medical donations from Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation.