In an effort to make it easier for university students to access course materials during the disruptions that have affected campuses around the country in recent weeks, Telkom, MTN and Cell C have announced they will all zero-rate access to participating university websites.
The companies said they are offering a solution that will allow universities to provide free access to academic content for students, even if they have run out of data or airtime.
Telkom was the first out of the gate with an announcement, saying its “reverse bill URL” service allows students using a Telkom mobile prepaid or post-paid Sim card to access content on a university website without paying for data consumption.
“Under normal circumstances, mobile data usage would then be reverse-billed back to the institution — similar to the reverse-charges phone calls of previous years. However, during this critical period, Telkom has taken a decision to waive the data consumption costs until the end of the academic year. Students who need to work offsite can therefore do so even without the need to fund these costs themselves,” said Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko in a statement.
The company said that during the protests, many universities have made lecture and study material available online to allow students to continue learning, even if they can’t get onto campuses.
“This may result in further anxiety for students who may already be surviving on the smallest of stipends, and must now find additional funds to purchase the data needed to access the materials they require to continue their studies,” Telkom said. It is essential that students are able to continue their studies despite the current political climate, Maseko added.
“Telkom is reaching out to academic institutions throughout South Africa to implement this solution. Students will be able to buy and Rica Sim cards from Telkom stores, national chains and participating dealers,” the company said.
Students accessing academic material via Telkom’s Internet service provider will also benefit from free data as Telkom already zero-rates this traffic, it added.
MTN South Africa CEO Mteto Nyati said his company took the decision to provide free access to online educational content in order to assist students and academic institutions to salvage the 2016 academic year.
“As MTN, we are mindful of the backlog that students and academic institutions are facing, and we believe that this gesture will help to maintain continuity and expedite access to much-needed educational content,” Nyati said.
Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos, meanwhile, said that the decision to zero-rate access to educational content will “complement the free basic Internet services, including Wikipedia and other information-based sites, that are already available to Cell C’s customers free of charge through Facebook’s FreeBasics (formerly Internet.org).” — © 2016 NewsCentral Media
- Update: On Thursday, Vodacom announced it, too, was joining the initiative.