Extinction Rebellion: Cell providers should give emergency free data to fight pandemic

Extinction Rebellion activists from Nelson Mandela Bay protest against global warming.
Extinction Rebellion activists from Nelson Mandela Bay protest against global warming.

As SA begins dealing with the unprecedented health emergency of Covid-19, Extinction Rebellion calls upon all cellphone providers to extend 3GB of free data a month immediately to all prepaid clients and basic-contract users who currently have minimal or no data.

The urgency with which this virus needs to be contained cannot be overstated.The country’s health system is already crumbling. As things stand patients are spending nights on cold waiting-room benches with no blankets, and people are dying for lack of medical staff and equipment.

A full-blown epidemic, such as those seen in countries like Iran and Italy, would be an unthinkable catastrophe in SA. High rates of HIV and TB make us one of the largest immuno-compromised populations in the world. In these circumstances, containment has to be our first line of defence.

Anything that can be done to help people stay at home in safety, while still being able to ask for food and other kinds of help, self-educate and communicate with the outside world, is both a national service and an act of mercy that may save many thousands of lives.

We call upon all cellular networks to step up with a humanitarian act of corporate responsibility in light of this crisis. Providing emergency free data would help our population be better resourced and more likely to self-isolate, stay informed and supported through virtual connectivity. This could be a huge boost to the national effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Access to information is the catalyst for freedom of expression in all its forms, and data promotes the right of equal access to information and knowledge.

Orthalia Kunene, Extinction Rebellion SA