People 'n' Issues

Data falls for students

October 19th, 2016
With the ongoing protests at universities around South Africa, Telkom, Cell C and MTN have made moves to provide free access to tuition websites.

Many institutions have had to make alternative plans to continue the academic year. Many universities have made lecture and study material available online while campuses are not able to be accessed by students. 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.

“Our universities and institutions are key to empowering South Africans and creating growth in this country,” said Sipho Maseko, Group CEO, Telkom. “We at Telkom believe it is essential that students are able to continue their studies despite the current political climate.”

Telkom is offering a solution which will enable universities to allow free access to academic content for students, even if they have run out of data or airtime. Telkom’s Reverse Bill URL service allows students using a Telkom mobile prepaid or postpaid SIM card to access content on a university website without paying for data consumption. Students accessing academic material via Telkom ISP will also benefit from free data as Telkom already zero rates this traffic.

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 off site can therefore do so even without the need to fund these costs themselves.

“We hope that this small contribution on our part will assist students to complete the academic year as we work together to build an equitable system for all,” says Maseko.

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.

Meanwhile, Cell C will offer students from universities across the country free access to university websites in a bid to assist them to access course material necessary to complete the year.

“We know students are facing a tough time at the moment, and many need to gain access to course material through their university’s online portal in order to complete their academic year. Zero-rating access is our way of assisting students,” says Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos.

Cell C is in the process of contacting universities and will implement a reverse bill on their website URLs. Cell C will absorb the cost to allow students to access academic content for free. This means that even if students are off campus, they will be able to access the university website at no cost. A list of the participating institutions will be updated and published on Cell C’s website.

“Cell C will ensure that this service is available to students until the end of the academic year,” says Dos Santos.

This service will complement the free basic internet services, including Wikipedia and other information-based sites, that are already available exclusively to Cell C’s customers free of charge through Facebook’s FreeBasics (

Students from participating universities, with a Cell C SIM card, will be able to make use of the service.

MTN announced that it will allow university students free access to university websites in order to access online content. To date, students from the University of Cape Town (UCT) and University of Pretoria will benefit from this initiative.

MTN is appealing to other institutions of higher learning to tap into this initiative by providing their URL addresses.

“As a responsible corporate citizen, MTN took the decision to provide free access to online educational content in order to complement existing classroom training, leverage the benefits of online training and assist the 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,” says Mteto Nyati, Chief Executive Officer: MTN South Africa.

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