The fight against high cellphone and data costs

The newly elected executive of the Ekurhuleni Nafcoc Business Youth Desk. From the left: Chairperson Dieketseng Thabethe, (centre) Thabo Radebe (treasurer) with Nosipho Masina (secretary) after they unveiled the #Data Must Fall - campaign against two cellphone giants.

29-year-old Thabethe said preparations by the national black business body’s youth to launch a “Data Must Fall” campaign and draw more young people against Vodacom and MTN, were at an advanced stage. She accused the two cellphone companies of failing to join other services providers who – according to her – have so far managed to transform their price structures and accommodated the plight of students, pensioners, the poor and township small businesses in the following ways:

· Reducing their data and rates.

· Offering clients ‘inclusive’ cellphone and data package rates

· Offering competitive prices to clients

· Creating job opportunities for the youth.

According to Thabethe, the costs of cellphone airtime and data both at Vodacom and MTN remain expensive. “This is having a negative impact in townships where families, parents, students and small businesses depend solely on cell phones and data to conduct their lives, communicate, study and run their businesses,” explained Thabethe.

The 29-year-old former information technology student argued that refusing to consider the plight of their clients under the current economic conditions and failure to join other service providers that have already lowered their rates, shows just how much they care for their clients,” said Thabethe.

Ekurhuleni Nafcoc- Youth Business Desk’s 19-year-old Secretary Nosipho Masina (no relation to the Executive Mayor of Ekurhuleni) added that the youth would embark on a media campaign to draw the attention of the region’s youth against the two cellphone giants.

“Our ultimate goal is to mobilise one million people to sign a petition in support of our campaign. The youth use more airtime and data because they are job-searching, studying and communicating and most of them come from poor families,”Masina explained.

Approached for comment Vodacom’s Byron Kennedy sent Kathorus MAIL an e-mail which read:

“Vodacom has reduced effective data pricing by 44% over the last three years and remains committed to reducing prices even further. Though the likes of Just4You (*123#) – which offers customers hourly, daily, weekly and monthly bundles – Vodacom has made significant inroads in recent years in its pricing transformation journey.In the past financial year we invested R114 million in community projects across our markets aimed at promoting broader societal transformation.

Some of our recent social investment projects include:

“Through our flagship mobile education program (mEducation), developed in partnership with the Department of Basic Education, we have provided ICT equipment and Internet connectivity to 3 000 schools throughout South Africa. We have also equipped and connected 92 teacher centers that offer teacher development courses, youth training on ICT, and community programs. We have trained over 100 000 teachers on the use of ICT in the classroom.

“In June 2016, Vodacom partnered with South Africa’s leading career websites to launch the NXT LVL zero-rated career website. This enables job seekers to browse job sites, upload their CVs and apply for available positions free of charge.

In partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) Innovation and Education units, we have deployed our ‘Instant Classroom’ to schools in various refugee settlements. Designed by Vodafone, the ‘digital school in a box’ comes equipped with a laptop, 25 tablets pre-loaded with educational software, a projector, a speaker and a hotspot modem with 3G connectivity.

“Through the Vodacom Foundation we have been a long-standing supporter of various non-profit organisations (NPOs).

A similar e-mail forwarded to MTN was acknowleged by their company’s Corporate Affairs department, but remained unanswered at the time of going to press.endit

Kathorus MAIL

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