Despite #SocialMediaBlackout boycott‚ the social media streets were lit up!

The Minister of Telecommunications‚ Siyabonga Cwele‚ and the government are concerned about the high data costs.

Minister of Telecommunications‚ Siyabonga Cwele. Picture: BUSINESSLIVE

This is according to Siya Qoza‚ the department’s spokesperson.

“Cwele believes that high data costs are a barrier to greater uptake and usage of the internet by all South Africans‚ including the 22 million who are currently unconnected‚” said Qoza.

Qoza said that last year‚ the minister asked Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to commence an inquiry and to prescribe regulations to ensure effective competition in broadband markets.

“He further asked Ebrahim Patel‚ minister of Economic Development‚ to ask the Competition Commission to also look into the high data costs with a view to identifying measures to reduce these costs. Both regulators are expected to work together in their complementary investigations. Network operators were asked individually and collectively to look at ways in which they can lower data costs‚” he told TimesLIVE.

In addition‚ the department has partnered with the World Economic Forum‚ civil society and the private sector to train South Africans in ICT skills and finding innovative ways to roll out infrastructure.

“We are doing this because we believe that if more people are skilled in using the internet and the infrastructure is available to more people‚ this will increase the demand for data‚ thereby leading to lower prices‚” he said.

He was commenting as a #DataMustFall campaign was mounted on Wednesday‚ spearheaded by a call for the day to be a national #SocialMediaBlackout.

Since early this week‚ Twitter was set alight when the controversial poet Ntsiki Mazwai asked social media users to not buy data or log in on the platforms in protest against data charges.

Access to information has become as essential as breathing to Trezia Ncube‚ an Accounting student at the University of South Africa.

Ncube told TimesLIVE that access to information has become a basic need in her life but the price is high.

“I use my phone for everything‚ including my assignments. My mother lives in the United States of America‚ I have no other cheaper means to communicate with her besides social media‚ and that requires data. I need social media to be a proactive member of society. I believe that data prices must fall but the blackout is difficult‚ maybe we should try other methods to resolve this cause the same people who started this are online as we speak‚” she said.

This is not the first campaign against the cost of data: In September 2016‚ Thabo “TboTouch” Molefe was invited to address the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Telecommunications and Postal Services on his social media campaign against high data costs.

Meanwhile‚ the online campaign became an epic fail when even the ambassadors of the trend were seen posting‚ and users admitted to a failure to stay away from social media.



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