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Ndabeni-Abrahams suggests hackathon to tackle coronavirus

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 20 Mar 2020
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, minister of communications and digital technologies.
Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, minister of communications and digital technologies.

Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams believes an online hackathon can find solutions to address the spread of COVID-19.

The minister spoke to ITWeb via telephone after mobile operator MTN SA this morning announced its voluntary response to the Competition Commission’s Data Service Market Inquiry.

Ndabeni-Abrahams’s comments come as SA is battling to contain the coronavirus. This morning, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize announced SA now has 202 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Among other issues, MTN said all of its sub-1GB 30-day data bundles (from R10 – R149) will be reduced by up to 50%.

It also introduced MTN OpenTime – free access to education, health and employment Web sites – of up to 500 sites that will be accessible without data charges.

Also announced was a daily free 20MB allocation of data to all MTN customers to send pictures, messages, video and browse the Internet, using the Ayoba app.

Ndabeni-Abrahams was chuffed by the mobile operator's data price reductions.

“This is a great opportunity for ordinary South Africans, especially those that are on the Y’ello SIM card because it means the prices they used to pay are no longer there.

“The prices have been slashed by up to 50% and there have been free platforms that have been created."

But most importantly, she believes the zero-rating of 500 sites will be a game-changer in SA.

MTN currently offers zero-rated access to a range of Web sites which include some universities, education portals and Wikipedia.

The company says these will form part of the broader public benefit Web site service. In April, MTN will extend the Web sites that will form part of the public benefit service to also include health, public universities, vocational colleges, educational resources as well as employment site.

“What that means is we are talking about education; we are talking about innovators that must come and innovate,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.

“For example, if we can have an online hackathon that seeks to find solutions towards COVID-19 to say ‘how can South Africa overcome this virus?’ This data cost reduction presents an opportunity for such people.

“For the zero-rating of 500 sites, it means we are going to have more people who will have access to growing their services.”