Huawei South Africa has provided recommendations on how to approach the coronavirus pandemic and its effect on the South African ICT sector.
Dr Bello Moussa, Director of Innovations and Industry Relations at Huawei Southern Africa Region, told MyBroadband that based on Huawei’s insight and experience in other countries, there are four key ICT-based elements the country must consider addressing as part of its lockdown strategy.
These four categories are:
- Outbreak management
- Communication assurance
- Remote productivity improvement
- Society digitalisation
“We are facing an unprecedented crisis with the coronavirus, and ICT is playing a very important role in fighting against the virus,” said Moussa.
Outbreak management includes the management of two elements – the broadcasting of accurate information and the ability for South Africans to access this information.
Moussa said it is important that numerous platforms are used for the dissemination of information during this time.
These platforms include television, radio, social media, and SMS, and offering data across all these platforms reduces the number of people who do not have access to important information.
Information that needs to be delivered on these platforms includes official updates of the number of people affected, safety information, information for hospitals, and the rules and regulations that are associated with the state of national disaster.
Verified information must also be available ubiquitously, added Moussa, and it would be a good idea to implement measures to ensure this happens.
Government could subsidise data packages during this time, Moussa suggested – particularly for underprivileged citizens and students.
As important as it is to distribute information pertaining to the pandemic to South Africans, it is of equal importance that South Africa’s networks remain stable and active to enable this.
Moussa recommends the implementation of network assurance teams, who can work on networks at all times to ensure they remain stable.
Additionally, Moussa highlighted that as the demand for connectivity surges and remote working becomes more popular, capacity will need to be enhanced to ensure that networks can manage such large loads.
As part of this effort, the government could maintain and update a comprehensive map of risks and vulnerabilities of various local networks that would enable it to be better prepared to deal with any capacity issues.
Remote productivity enhancement
Moussa highlighted that as remote working sees a massive increase, it would be beneficial for the government to implement proactive policies and regulations that assist the relevant applications being used during this time.
These include communications platforms like Skype and Zoom, as well as other technologies like distance learning and e-government.
These applications and technologies are regularly used by those working, learning, or even governing from home, and are of critical importance as organisations try to remain afloat.
Remote services like telemedicine are also important during the lockdown.
Telemedicine services are able to provide a patient diagnosis without the need for physical contact – an important benefit to make use of during this pandemic.
Supporting these and other important technologies through the amendment and implementation of effective policies can make it easier for businesses, organisations, and individuals to operate from home.
While South Africans are forced to work from home for now, the experience may convince many workers and businesses that remote working is the future.
Remote working was already growing rapidly before the pandemic, and Moussa believes that more businesses may be convinced of the potential and validity of remote working moving forward.
Online shopping and online education are also growing markets taking centre stage during the lockdown.
Technologies such as 5G, big data, AI, and cloud computing are key enablers in making remote working a viable alternative to the traditional workspace, and Moussa believes that targeted investment into these technologies could help South Africa step into the future.
The South African government published a Government Gazette on 26 March 2020 relating to ICT regulations that would be implemented to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
One new regulation said that entities which have access to high-demand spectrum must make connections of at least 10Mbps available to 104 district virtual classroom platforms to assist with virtual teaching.
While Huawei said this was a good start, it stated that 10Mbps connectivity may not be sufficient for some functions – such as group video calls.
Other regulations in the Gazette include relaxing spectrum regulations for temporary licensing of all spectrum bands, and zero-rated access to local education websites.