Twenty-six Critical Health Centres have received broadband connectivity in the past two weeks, thanks to public-private partnerships.
The Department of Communications and Digital Technologies has established public and private partnerships to provide broadband internet connectivity to approximately 480 COVID-19 Mission Critical Health Centres across the country at no cost to the department.
The broadband speed connectivity is above 10 megabit per second.
This fast connectivity will enable remote health facilities to transfer patient files and carry out statistical reporting, medical analysis, and consult quickly and effectively. It will support critical health centres in enhancing the patient experience of care, quality, access, and reliability.
This partnership, brokered by Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, was in response to the directions gazetted in March and an effort to assist government in meeting the key objective of slowing the spread of Coronavirus.
In response to a direction by the Minister, the regulatory body ICASA also assigned temporary radio frequency spectrum to mobile network operators. This will ensure citizens are able to access ICT services, government programmes and have the necessary information to protect themselves against this pandemic.
“Increased access to information is at the heart of department directions, the realities of inequality are such that not everyone can simply move online.
“All successful licensees for temporary IMT spectrum assignments are required to support and create virtual teaching and classrooms as determined by the department, in alignment with the Department of Basic Education,” said Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.
As part of COVID-19 interventions, the department is working with the Departments of Basic and Higher Education, and in partnership with mobile network operators and internet service providers.
The companies have approved hundreds of local websites to be zero-rated for educational purposes while South Africa deals with the pandemic.
The zero-rated websites include, among others, TVET colleges, universities, basic education sites as well as websites that provide information which can help South Africans mitigate the risks that come with this virus.
In addition to the 990 sites, which are already zero-rated, there are additional sites which are pending approval.
Zero rating of telecommunications and data services for specified public services like health, education and public service pronouncements is a very important intervention to empower society and the youth, in particular. “We are appreciated the good gestures from the mobile network operators, but I believe together more can be done,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.
The Coronavirus pandemic has not only put a sharp focus on the ICT sector; it has also has accelerated the digitalisation of many businesses and services, introduced teleworking and video conferencing systems in and out of the workplace.
Ndabeni-Abrahams said COVID-19 provides an opportunity for affordable ICT infrastructure and digital technology solutions such as Artificial Intelligence, High Performance Computing, Robotics and the Internet of Things, to be explored.
Meanwhile, the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to facilitate the temporary rapid deployment of electronic communications and facilities within municipalities across the country.