Opinion Piece: COVID-19 Broadband has a crucial role to disseminate information

By Phumza Dyani, Sales and Marketing Chief Officer for Broadband Infraco

19 March 2020

The novel coronavirus has disrupted our way of life the way we know it in South Africa. 

The last few weeks have been very difficult for everybody given the spread of Covid-19, which has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation.

Covid-19, has as of 19 March 2020, spread to 24 countries, with more than 200,000 people infected around the Globe – 99% of them in China.

Italy is the next most devasted country with infections spiking on Wednesday when the country reported as many as 3,526 new cases and 345 deaths.

The devastation of Covid-19 is beginning to be felt here at home.

South Africa has recorded the highest number of people in Africa who have tested positive for Covid-19 or coronavirus.

This single, serious challenge consumes the attention of the entire world.

On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster. 

Schools and universities closed early, travel bans were imposed, some ports of entry have been closed and cruise ships cannot dock in South Africa. 

Already affected businesses are bracing for tougher times with calls to work from home growing urgent and louder. 

Gatherings of more than 100 people are now prohibited resulting in the cancellation of many events.

All travellers who have entered South Africa from high-risk countries since mid-February are now required to present themselves for testing.

It has become everyone’s business to do whatever they can to stop the pandemic from spreading.

From simple and basic hygiene habits like washing hands frequently, avoiding handshakes and keeping a safe distance from others, every person can contribute to the fight against this deadly coronavirus.

Technology obviously has a role to play in getting information out there quickly and accurately.

On Wednesday, health authorities said the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in South Africa spiked overnight by 31 to 116.

The rapid rise of infections requires urgent action.

Broadband Infraco is ready to assist the South African Government by ensuring the state is incapacitated with relevant technology to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

Broadband Infraco is a state-owned wholesale provider of choice for backhaul connectivity.

As a company, we are ready to play a critical role in ensuring that the Covid-19 pandemic is defeated using the latest Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) ammunition.

The company has a backbone network traversing throughout South Africa and rights to Eskom and Transnet servitudes, with access to fibre that runs across all cities and rural areas of the country. 

Broadband Infraco is best positioned, with infrastructure as well as capability, to deploy the requisite infrastructure to reach as many citizens of South Africa in this time of crisis.

Using the currently existing 4IR Solutions running on the Broadband Infraco’s network, we will enable the government to disseminate key information quickly to the citizenry for their safety, as well as providing services like:

  • E-Leaning: to minimise the impact on learning
  • E-Health: to support the collection and distribution of key data to health practitioners and patients
  • Home Affairs services: to correctly monitor the movements of citizens and exchange critical data within government systems
  • Policing services: to provide and collect critical information from law enforcement
  • Crucial notices and information: enabling the much-needed citizen engagement as well as identify where help or re-enforcement of support is required
  • Community Centres: for supporting social services interventions.

Much investment has been made and can be leveraged on the existing solutions and model of the SA Connect Roll Out Strategy.

SA Connect is the government’s ambitious project, which aims to deliver widespread broadband access to 90% of the country’s population by 2020, and 100% by 2030.

The government is also looking at the project to meet the technology goals of the National Development Plan (NDP). 

As part of the NDP, the government has undertaken to connect its offices across the country, starting in rural areas, to ensure South Africans have access to the most modern communication tools and services.

Although President Ramaphosa has engaged party, traditional and religious leaders to help spread the hygiene message in their areas, Broadband Infraco offers a much-needed efficient alternative way of getting the message out there quickly and accurately.

Broadband Infraco could play a leading role in facilitating the flow of crucial information about Covid19 to schools, health facilities, government offices, Thusong Centres and post offices, rural district municipalities, and to public Wi-Fi facilities.

The diagram below shows the technical solution that is envisaged to disseminate crucial information, as well as use the connectivity for services during the crisis periods.

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While taking extra hygiene precautions it the right thing to do, such positive actions can be complemented by quick and accurate dissemination of information – something Broadband Infraco is good at doing.

As an organisation we remain instrumental in playing a significant role in ensuring the social goal of inclusivity is attained even in these difficult times.

Together we can win the war against the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic.

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