MTN complies with zero-rating of approved PBO websites

22 July 2020

The DG Murray Trust (DGMT) has withdrawn its court application to compel mobile network operator MTN to zero- rate the local educational websites of public benefit organisations (PBOs) that have been officially approved, but not actioned. This follows MTN’s full compliance with the demands made in that application.

The Department of Basic Education approved a list of 39 PBO websites on 8 May 2020, and until last week, only Telkom and other fixed line operators had zero-rated the PBO sites. As of Monday 14 July 2020, Vodacom had zero- rated 19 of the sites. According to MTN, it had been instructed by government to prioritise universities, TVET colleges and now schools – leaving little prospect of zero-rating of PBOs for the foreseeable future.

DGMT launched the application on the grounds that the poorest children, who do not have access to online education in their schools, but could benefit from the digital educational resources of PBOs, should not be pushed to the back of the queue in terms of the order in which websites are zero-rated.

After confirming its intention to defend, MTN’s lawyers (Webber Wentzel) then provided a letter to DGMT’s legal counsel (Dunster Attorneys) confirming that all 39 websites would be zero-rated by the end of today (22 July 2020).

“We are thrilled with MTN’s accelerated action to zero-rate the websites of PBOs”, says Dr David Harrison, CEO of the DG Murray Trust. “This means that many more poor children will have access to stories, language and maths. It is strong recognition that public benefit organisations play a crucial role in education in South Africa.”

On the basis of MTN’s response, DGMT has notified MTN’s lawyers of its intention to withdraw its application.

DGMT will keep monitoring the zero-rating of public benefit organisations to ensure full compliance by the all network operators.

Following are examples of online content offered by some of the zero-rated PBOs:

  • –  Thanda’s early education and creative learning: Watch a short video of how Thanda is giving access totheir curriculum via their online portal: https://bit.ly/2OIgMUe, and visit the portal here:https://thanda.org/library/education-portal/
  • –  Wordworks’ early literacy at home: https://wwhomeliteracy.org.za/
  • –  Siyavula’s Thunderbolt Kids – Learning adventures in Natural Sciences and Technology, grades 4-6
    http://www.thunderboltkids.co.za/index.html
  • –  Olico Maths – Free online Maths for Grades 7-9: https://learn.olico.org/DGMT is a South African foundation committed to developing South Africa’s potential through public innovation and strategic investment. Our goal for South Africa is a flourishing people, economy and society (www.dgmt.co.za).

Press release provided by DGMT

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