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As South Africa begins dealing with an unprecedented health emergency caused by 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.

Data is an important way to access information. Access to information is the catalyst for freedom of expression in all its forms. It promotes the right of equal access to information and knowledge, including opposing any limitations imposed on these freedoms! This includes the high cost of data.

The urgency with which this virus needs to be contained cannot be overstated.

The country’s health system is already crumbling. We have patients spending nights on cold waiting-room benches with no blankets, and people 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 South Africa — high rates of HIV and TB make us one of the largest immuno-compromised populations in the world.

Given these circumstances, containment is our first line of defence. Anything that can be done to help people stay at home in safety, while still being able to order food, self-educate, communicate with others and ask for help, 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 the current crisis. Providing free data would help our population be better resourced and more likely to self-isolate, stay informed and supported through virtual connectivity. That, in turn, would help the national efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.

 On behalf of Extinction Rebellion South Africa

Orthalia Kunene

Media Liaison