Technology connects us now more than ever before, making our lives easier and more meaningful in many ways. For the last 25 years, Vodacom has played a key role in transforming ordinary people’s lives through its innovative technology, allowing more South Africans to stay connected for a better future. South Africa faces some of the highest levels of inequality, unemployment and poverty in the world. As the leading mobile network operator in South Africa, Vodacom is committed to removing barriers to digital access as we evolve to The Gigabit Society – while transforming education, healthcare, financial services and agriculture for customers and communities. Key to achieving this means ensuring the continued growth of network coverage and capacity. Vodacom’s investment into its network is evident, as the brand led the country to become the first in Africa to surpass over 80 percent population coverage on a 4G threshold. The launch of Africa’s first standards-based commercial 5G network in Lesotho in 2018 is further testament to the brand’s commitment to keeping all of its customers connected.
As part of Vodacom’s accelerated rural coverage programme, it deployed over 200 new rural network sites across all nine provinces in the last financial year alone. This comes after it extended its South African rural coverage to 101 villages in Financial Year 18, in areas that did not previously have network access. The sites are located predominantly in KwaZulu- Natal, the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and Mpumalanga. Services like Vodacom’s Mum & Baby are changing lives by supporting over 1.5 million mothers and caregivers in remote parts of the country, where crucial health care information is not easily accessible due to health care centres being located far away from their homes. Vodacom now has a solution for this challenge. Mothers and caregivers subscribed to Mum & Baby are offered this information in the form of SMS messages, educational articles, tutorials, videos and access to tools such as a due date calculator, ensuring that both mother or caregiver and baby are healthy and happy.
From early childhood development to education, Vodacom works hard to ensure that today’s youth are ready to be a part of the evolving work force of the future by investing over R500 million in transforming SA’s education system over the next five years. Through the Vodacom e-School platform, over 690 000 learners have been able to access zero-rated curriculum content, ensuring that access to educational information is more inclusive, a critical factor in giving everyone the same tools and opportunities to overcome poverty, create success and be a part of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR).
This is why Vodacom, as the country’s leading digital telecom, took it upon itself to launch this initiative to prepare the youth, so they can adapt skills of the future and contribute in taking the economy forward. Vodacom, as a long-standing partner of government has pioneered a multi-faceted education ecosystem model that looks at the interdependencies and interrelationships of ECDs and high schools and incorporates teacher training, parents and local communities to significantly transform our education system.
Vodacom continually facilitates initiatives that look to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres, including trafficking and sexual exploitation. Together with the Department of Social Development, the company invested over R6 million towards the infrastructure set-up and running of the national Gender-based Violence Command Centre, which provides support to survivors of abuse. The GBV Command Centre represents the first technology of its kind in terms of social delivery in South Africa. The Centre operates a National 24/7-day call centre facility. The facility employs professional Social Workers with some of them responsible for The Deaf Community using Sign Language.
Over the years, Vodacom has also supplied products and services to help provide value to customers and assist in social transformation efforts. For instance, in 2017, Vodacom Connected Farmer, a cloud-based web and mobile software solution was launched to link enterprises to smallholder farmers, helping farmers improve efficiencies and production. As an extension of this and to create equal opportunities for women and youth in rural areas, Vodacom introduced the Women Farmers Programme in partnership with UN Women in 2018. Agriculture remains a significant provider of employment in rural areas and this programme has, to date, helped train over 400 small-scale women farmers in the Limpopo province alone.
As Vodacom endeavours to implement mobile technology solutions that can help bring the government and the people closer, it launched its Vodacom Citizen Engagement App in Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the Eastern Cape. This platform assists in creating a clear and transparent real-time channel of communication for citizens to their respective municipalities and government departments, ensuring that service delivery issues are efficiently reported to the right people and resolved as quickly as possible. While Vodacom is pleased with its progress and the acknowledgement it has received, more must and will be done.
Transformation is part of Vodacom’s DNA and the company will work hard to ensure that the fruits of the economy, and the sector, are shared by all, expanding its portfolio into such avenues as the Internet of Things, with products such as ‘V by Vodacom’ that provides various smart security tools, blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data Analytics. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The future is exciting. Ready?