MTN boosts COVID-19 relief as SA gradually returns to work

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MTN is stepping up its COVID-19 relief efforts, announcing an expanded package, ranging from equipment to food support, for the most affected areas across the country.

This as South African telcos have been assisting government and health officials in various ways to fight the impact of COVID-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic.

At the time of publishing, there were 6 783 COVID-19 cases reported in SA, with 131 deaths, and 2 549 people so far recovering from the virus.

The country has been in lockdown since 26 March; however, government last week peeled back some restrictions, which has seen a significant number of businesses resume trading today.

As more than a million people return to work today under relaxed COVID-19 regulations, the spotlight has shifted to smart ways of dealing with the virus.

MTN says it’s ready to step up.

“We believe that by harnessing the power of technology and leveraging our extensive community network, developed by the MTN Foundation over the past 19 years, we can work with government to make a meaningful impact in curbing the spread of the virus – both in SA’s economic hub, and beyond,” says Jacqui O’Sullivan, executive for corporate affairs at MTN SA.

In a statement, the telco says it is providing ICT equipment and infrastructure, valued at around R2 million, in the Gauteng province.

Gauteng currently has 1 598 confirmed cases of the virus.

MTN says in responding to the office of Gauteng premier David Makhura’s call for essential ICT tools, “MTN is also providing 500 (7-inch) tablets, with 3GB data provision for three months, for community healthcare workers. The tablets and data, valued at R1.05 million, will be used to capture and record information from community screenings in real-time.”

WiFi connectivity

Jacqui O’Sullivan, executive for corporate affairs at MTN South Africa.
Jacqui O’Sullivan, executive for corporate affairs at MTN South Africa.

Further, it says: “The Gauteng Department of Health (GDOH) has recently established an emergency quarantine and healthcare facility at Nasrec, in Johannesburg. The GDOH specified that they required 20 desktop computers and WiFi connectivity to assist in running the field hospital.

“MTN is fulfilling the request for the computers and is providing WiFi access to all medical personnel and patients within the vicinity, to the value of R800 000.”

Concurrently, MTN says it will be taking its COVID-19 relief efforts to other provinces that have been heavily impacted by the virus.

The Western Cape has overtaken Gauteng with the highest number of confirmed cases within the last week, currently accounting for more than 2 700 cases. KwaZulu-Natal is the third-highest infection province with 1 051 confirmed cases.

“To extend support and enable healthcare workers in these regions, MTN has undertaken to contribute a further 350 (7-inch) tablets to other provinces to support healthcare workers on the ground. The value of this support is estimated at R650 000,” says the company.

Food parcels

Over and above that, MTN says food security has become critical during the nationwide lockdown and it will assist.

The telco will distribute 5 500 food parcels to the value of R3.5 million to the worst-affected communities across the country.

“The donation will assist approximately 27 500 beneficiaries,” says MTN.

It says it has been working closely with government, at both national and provincial levels, to align its support to the state’s primary focus areas, based on where the greatest need is – and mobilising support accordingly.

O’Sullivan explains: “We hope these contributions and others that have been made in the past month or so will assist government in its efforts to put an end to the pandemic. For MTN’s part, we will continue with our ongoing needs-based assessments to identify other forms of support that we can provide.

“Sadly, it is the communities that have the least resources to mitigate the impact of this pandemic, which are the hardest hit. We believe these food parcels will serve as a lifeline to many economically marginalised communities, particularly during this time when many of the people within these communities are unable to go out and make a living,” says O’Sullivan.

Industry support

Other telcos are also playing an increasingly important role in combating the spread of COVID-19.

Vodacom has partnered with Discovery to deliver “a simple but powerful online healthcare platform for the benefit of all South Africans during the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Vodacom says: “This platform provides easy access for all South Africans to a COVID-19 risk tool, to help understand your personal risk for COVID-19, plus, where needed, to immediately schedule virtual healthcare professional consultations and get advice.”

Openserve, Vumatel and Frogfoot have all upgraded data speeds to ease Internet traffic.

The companies says upgrades are in response COVID-19, which has forced communities, businesses and governments to embrace the centrality of technological advancements to connect, communicate and conduct business remotely.

Equally, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa has temporarily released spectrum to operators.

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