CEO of Telkom Sipho Maseko. Picture:FREDDY MAVUNDA
CEO of Telkom Sipho Maseko. Picture:FREDDY MAVUNDA

Fixed line operator Telkom has pledged R15m to SA’s primary health-care sector as efforts continue in the battle against the Covid-19 outbreak.

In a statement on Sunday, Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko said the funds would be used to support health-care workers who are on the front line of the battle against Covid-19, particularly in SA’s vulnerable communities.

The group said the donation was part of its “multipronged approach to support SA’s efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 and its effects”. Others include the zero-rating data costs in accessing learning material for universities and public schools to enable learning and teaching to continue, said Telkom.

The Centurion-based operator said it was inviting other South African corporations and members of the public “to contribute to strengthening the public health system”.

Members of the public can donate by dialling the following premium-rated short codes from any network to:

• 36757 —  R5
• 38771 — R10
• 40773 — R20

“Telkom challenges all South Africans to contribute. It’s time for us to come together and work in solidarity and community,” Maseko said.

In response to a question on whether pledges would be enough to tackle such a huge problem, Maseko told Business Day: “It’s a start.”

He said the funds would primarily be used to ensure that care and information about Covid-19 reached people in all communities through the health-worker network and to equip those doing such work with items such as sanitisers and masks.

Telkom was working with the Red Cross, which will allocate the funds across these areas, said Maseko.

He said Telkom has seen an increase in network demand over the past week as more people worked remotely or from home. However, he said, much of it was not new demand but rather a “rebalancing” as the increase in data usage on home or mobile networks was offset by a decrease in demand by businesses.

Maseko could not say if the usage patterns would evolve but was confident Telkom’s network could handle the demand. “The network is absolutely resilient.”

The steps by the partially government-owned operator are the latest contribution from industry players in the wake of the outbreak.

On Thursday, Vodacom said it was continuing work to consolidate all existing zero-rated data services with new essential services aimed at social upliftment into a single platform called “ConnectU”. This included increasing capacity for its e-School platform, which is used by almost 900,000 learners across the country.

On Friday, MTN said  it intended to introduce new voice and data packages in the coming weeks to facilitate communication during the Covid-19 crisis. This was in addition to lowering the price of its data bundles in response to the government's call for reductions.

All network operators have assured the public they have measures and teams in place to ensure network quality as demand for communication services grows during this time of social distancing.

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