Communications regulator Icasa has slammed a report in the consumer media this week that suggested it made a mistake when it assigned the “111” service code to government for dealing with Covid-19-related calls from citizens.
The 111 number is used by Vodacom for customer service and has been for many years. As a result of the number being “assigned” to the department of health, a government call centre was flooded with calls from people trying to reach the mobile operator.
So, how did this mix-up happen?
Icasa explained on Tuesday that it published a notice on 15 April to “harmonise and mandate the short code ‘111’ for Covid-19 national emergency services, in line with the numbering plan regulations”.
“It was subsequently confirmed that the ‘111’ short code is being used – incorrectly – by Vodacom for its customer care centres,” the regulator said. “Consequently, the national department of health advised that the Covid-19 health communications centres were inundated with calls made by Vodacom customers.”
As a result, Icasa has decided to withdraw the “111” short code and will replace it with a new emergency service number — 103, 104, 105, 106, 118 and 139 are being considered, it said.
“Following the publication of the notice on 27 July, the authority has noted some media reports suggesting that Icasa accidentally assigned and harmonised the Vodacom customer care number for Covid-19 emergency services. The authority would like to categorically state that there was no error; neither was it accidental to assign the service code ‘111’ for the Covid-19 national emergency.”
‘Did not happen’
“The numbering regulations of 2016 harmonised short code ‘135’ for customer care services by all network operators; this came into effect on 24 March 2018, after which the short code ‘111’ should have been decommissioned for customer care services.
“However, this did not happen, despite Vodacom confirming in writing that the new short codes, including the customer care service code, were running parallel with the legacy short codes to ensure seamless transition to the newly harmonised short codes within the specified implementation timeframe,” said Icasa acting chair Dimakatso Qocha.
Qocha said Icasa will address Vodacom’s continued use of the “111” service code” as part of a separate process. – © 2020 NewsCentral Media