African governments’ strict measures taken to spread the Covid-19 virus has boosted the use of digital technologies, according to the Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa (CIPESA).
These measures include, among others, travel bans, curfews, prohibition of mass gatherings, lockdown and self-isolation, closing of bars and schools.
“Various governments have been quick to encourage mobile money use for local transactions and payment for goods and services in lieu of cash, to stem the contagion,” Kampala-based CIPESA said on its research paper titled “How Technology is Aiding the Covid-19 Fight in Africa”, published last week.
In response, mobile network operators have increased daily limits and waived fees on nominal transfers via mobile money.
Effective March 17, for 90 days, Kenya’s Safaricom increased the daily transaction limit via M-Pesa from Kenya Shillings (KES) 140,000 to KES 300,000 (USD 1,400 to USD 3,000) and waived fees off peer-to-peer transfers up to USD 10.
Airtel and MTN have done the same in their major markets including Cameroon, Ghana, Rwanda, Sudan, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.
CIPESA said that other efforts by telecom companies include doubling internet speeds for home fibre packages at no extra cost to users for at least a month. There is also the deployment of Google Loon to boost 4G network coverage in remote areas in Kenya.
MTN Uganda has introduced promotional ‘work from home’ data bundles and a campaign to educate the public on the pandemic.
Airtel Uganda launched a zero-rating information from the health ministry website and free text messaging services to ‘keep public connected’ .
Global mobile operator Vodafone, operational in 10 African countries, is reported to have said that it is offering governments the ability to send text messages free of charge to people living in areas that have been hit by the coronavirus.