University of Cape Town students and staff who are Vodacom subscribers will have free internet access following the decision by the cellphone network provider to zero rate a number of academic sites.
Having zero-rated the charge to key basic education sites and career portals, Vodacom announced this week that it has taken a decision to zero rate services to universities for students and staff who are Vodacom subscribers.
This in a bid to help address cost challenges associated with access to education content and remote learning for institutions of higher learning.
Through this approach, Vodacom has enabled 19 of the 23 South African universities, including UCT, with free internet access.
UCT vice-chancellor Dr Max Price said students and other eligible users would have access to the free service.
Free internet access to students and staff had been accessible only through the Eduroam wi-fi platform that could only be accessible within the vicinity of the university and its residences.
“The University of Cape Town is grateful to Vodacom for providing such an important resource to our students and staff.
"The service will be very useful to our students in that it will enable them to do their work off-campus without worrying about data costs or without having the need to travel to campus,” said Price.
In the case of UCT, the sites will be accessible through the agreed uniform resource locators (URL), internet protocols (IP) and ports which will provide addresses to particular pages and files on the internet.
The identified addresses will include UCT’s website http://www.uct.ac.za, the online library http://www.lib.uct.ac.za, and other important classroom and general interactive university sites.
For requirements above the zero-rated content, Vodacom has launched an e-rate, that is billing all data traffic to agreed sites at 50% of the normal data rates for all universities.
Vodacom managing executive for the Western Cape region Alberts Breed said: “This intervention is a demonstration of Vodacom’s core belief that information and communication technology (ICT) and mobile technology can be utilised to improve and advance learning, address skills development and help in finding employment.
“Many learners in our country often cannot afford and don’t have access to learning material such as textbooks, which makes excelling at school more difficult.
"As an investor in the country and an established partner in addressing social challenges, Vodacom’s goal is to contribute to ensuring that learners throughout the country have access to some of the educational tools to help enhance their learning experience.”
He said education was not just a government issue, but the private sector and the general public were to play a pivotal role in providing access to higher education and further education and training.
The cost to communicate in South Africa has been a hot topic in recent times, given the impact of the economic slowdown on the South African consumer and global trends on the cost of data.
In response to this, Vodacom’s pricing transformation strategy, anchored by personalised packages aimed at giving customers greater value, has over the last four years produced a reduction in the price of data and voice by more than 60% and 57% respectively.