Just like MTN, who had once committed to a free Twitter service, network providers should offer a similar service to e-learning websites, which would improve the quality of education among pupils in the country, according to an education expert.
The Competition Commission recently gave feedback on its data market inquiry, stating that network providers in South Africa continued to offer data at high prices.
But significantly reducing data costs over the long term would make digital learning more accessible to more South Africans, especially with government rolling out tablets to pupils.
The department of basic education was already rolling out free tablets to schools in certain parts of the country, as it was now a “basic necessity” since the “whole world has gone digital when it comes to learning,” education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told The Citizen.
“The department of communications is facilitating access [to data] but also, the department of basic education has partnered with companies such as MTN, Vodacom, etc, to ensure that connectivity is achieved in schools to ensure learning is convenient as far as ICT is concerned,” he said.
But the deal ended there as children had to find their own means of using their tablets to connect to the internet when they were home.
Development director at Media Works, Dennis Lamberti, believed receiving teaching from the internet through devices such as tablets, laptops and computers could improve the quality of education in South Africa and encourage further learning outside of the classroom.
“There is a lot of content available from South Africa such as sites like Khan Academy, where they specialise in mathematics and science,” Lamberti told The Citizen. “It is content that offers amazing lessons for free. There are other sites such as YouTube.
“There’s no doubt that reducing data costs over the long term will be essential to making digital learning more accessible to more South Africans. Yet there is another solution that involves going one step further, by encouraging local mobile networks to make data costs completely free for specific e-learning websites.”
E-learning could relieve teachers in rural areas, who were forced to teach a subject they were not experienced in, Lamberti explained.
“You can take the best maths teacher in the country, for example, to get to teach the kids in the rest of the country online, while the actual maths teacher plays a supporting role. For those teachers, especially in the rural areas, who are not science teachers but are asked to teach science, e-learning would make it easier for them.”
The Competition Commission found that although MTN and Vodacom were the larger service providers in South Africa, they charged much cheaper rates in other African countries.
Vodacom charged South African consumers R159 for 1GB, but Nigerians only R40.
MTN subscribers were charged R172 for 1GB, but Nigerians only forked out R45.35 for the same bundle.