South Africa’s COVID-19 national emergency services hotline was flooded with calls from Vodacom customers after ICASA accidentally assigned it the number for Vodacom’s call centre.
On 15 April, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) announced that it would harmonise and mandate the “111” short code for COVID-19 national emergency services, in line with the Numbering Plan Regulations.
Vodacom customers may immediately note an issue with this decision – “111” is the short code for Vodacom’s customer care centre.
Following the assignment of the “111” short code to the COVID-19 national emergency hotline, the Department of Health’s COVID-19 communications centres were flooded with calls from Vodacom customers seeking assistance with their mobile products.
“The Authority published notice No. 244 on 15 April 2020 to harmonise and mandate the short code “111” for COVID-19 national emergency services, in line with regulation 17 of the Numbering Plan Regulations,” ICASA said in the gazetted document.
“It follows that the ‘111’ short code is being used by Vodacom customers to access Vodacom’s customer care centres.”
“Consequently, the National Department of Health advised that the COVID-19 health communications centres were inundated with calls made by Vodacom customers,” the authority said.
At the time of writing, dialling the “111” short code from a Vodacom SIM returns the following voice message:
“The number you have dialled does not exist. Please redial carefully or consult directory enquiries.”
Assignment of new numbers
ICASA acknowledged the error and said it would immediately withdraw the assignment and mandate a new number for the COVID-19 emergency hotline.
Instead of “111”, one of the following numbers will be mandated for the COVID-19 national emergency services:
“The selected service code will be harmonised for COVID-19 national emergency services during the National State of Disaster,” ICASA said.
“The Department of Health will be obliged to return the service code to the Authority within nine months after the termination of the National State of Disaster.”
Licensees and the public are invited to make written submissions to the Authority in relation to the possible short codes which are to be mandated for the national COVID-19 emergency hotline.
The full gazette is embedded below.