An online petition is calling on South Africa’s government to reject calls by mobile networks to regulate over-the-top (OTT) services such as WhatsApp and Skype.
Online women’s magazine All4Women.co.za has launched the petition dubbed ‘#SaveWhatsApp – and other communication apps you can’t live without’ this week.
The creation of the petition comes after All4Women received a number of responses from readers on their website to a story about possible WhatsApp regulation in South Africa, said the site’s editor Sasha Wyatt-Minter.
The Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services said this week that it plans to hold hearings on January 26 to discuss possible regulation of OTT services amid a request from mobile networks.
Both of South Africa’s biggest networks Vodacom and MTN last year expressed calls for WhatsApp to be regulated in South Africa as they said OTT services currently don’t contribute financially to the use of local mobile networks. Cell C, though, has indicated to Fin24 that it opposes OTT regulation.
“We thought the whole issue of trying to regulate a communications platform is really an issue of corporate greed,” Wyatt-Minter told Fin24.
“We thought that the South African government can’t start listening to people who want to do things for the wrong sorts of reasons because we need to listen to the voice of South Africa, the voice of the people,” she said.
At the time of writing, over 4 000 people have signed the petition.
But All4Women has a goal of obtaining 50 000 signatures by next week and handing it over to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services Mmamoloko Tryphosa Kubayi.
The petition is also expected to be handed over to Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and Telecommunications and Postal Services Minister Siyabonga Cwele.
Wyatt-Minter told Fin24 that WhatsApp helps poorer South Africans as well as businesses afford cheaper communication.
“We feel that these apps of communication platforms contribute to our economic growth as well,” Wyatt-Minter told Fin24.
“Businesses are built on communication and South Africa as a country really needs as much access to communication as possible,” Wyatt-Minter said.