Vodacom zero-rates COVID Alert SA app on its network

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Hot on the heels of the launch of SA’s COVID-19 contact-tracing app, mobile operator Vodacom has come on board, saying it will provide zero-rated access to the app for its customers.

Vodacom counts 43.9 million South Africans as part of its customer base.

The COVID Alert SA app is part of government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus and prevent a second wave of infections. It has been built using Apple and Google’s contact-tracing technology.

In April, the rival tech giants announced a joint venture to enable the use of advanced Bluetooth technology to help governments and health agencies reduce the spread of the deadly virus, with user privacy and security central to the design.

The COVID Alert SA App lets people know if they have been exposed to the coronavirus. Using Bluetooth contact-tracing technology, it exchanges a random code with other users of the app. This happens when their smartphones are within two metres of each other for more than 15 minutes. The identity and location of the device users is not required for the exchange to happen, in order to protect their privacy.

Once users have downloaded and installed the app, it runs in the background. Bluetooth and notifications must be enabled for the app to work and users need to have access to a mobile or WiFi network to send and receive exposure alerts.

If a person tests positive for COVID-19, they can use the app to notify all other users that they have been in contact with during the past 14 days. All phones that have exchanged codes will receive an alert with instructions on what to do next.

Vodacom says it decided to zero-rate the app to reduce barriers to access and assist government in its fight to halt the spread of COVID-19.

Customers can download the app via Vodacom’s ConnectU platform or the MyVodacom app.

Takalani Netshitenzhe, director for external affairs for Vodacom SA, says: “Working with government and other important stakeholders as part of our social contract, Vodacom remains committed to finding innovative ways to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

“It is becoming clear that in order to prevent a human catastrophe of enormous proportions in our country, big corporates such as Vodacom ought to be responsive in this environment and use its own resources and core capabilities to help government combat the pandemic. By zero-rating the site on our network, we are minimising barriers of access to communication for South Africans whilst at the same time promoting health and safety.”

The app is available on Google Play Store and Apple App Store.

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