Twenty-six Critical Health Centres have received broadband connectivity over the past two weeks, all 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 SA at no cost to the department.
The connectivity speed is above 10 megabits per second.
This will allow remote health facilities to transfer patient files and carry out statistical reporting, medical analysis, and consultations quickly and effectively.
It will also support critical health centres in enhancing the patient experience of care, quality, access, and reliability.
This partnership is a response to the directions gazetted in March and an effort to help the government in slowing the spread of Coronavirus.
In response to a direction by the Minister, the regulatory body ICASA also allocated temporary radio frequency spectrum to mobile network operators to ensure that people can access ICT services and government programmes while also having 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.
The department is working alongside the Departments of Basic and Higher Education in partnership with mobile network operators and internet service providers as part of COVID-19 interventions.
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 and websites that offer useful information aimed at helping South Africans alleviate the risks that come with this virus.
In addition to the 990 zero-rated sites, additional sites are still 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 have appreciated the good gestures from the mobile network operators, but I believe together more can be done,” said Ndabeni-Abrahams.
Not only has the pandemic put a sharp focus on the ICT sector but it has also has fast-tracked the digital shift that many businesses and services will take by introducing teleworking and video conferencing systems in and out of the workplace.
Ndabeni-Abrahams said that COVID-19 offers a unique 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.