5G & COVID-19

Since COVID-19 started to spread throughout the world in early 2020, social media has been abuzz with speculation linking 5G technology to the pandemic. However, scientists and health experts across the globe have discredited this as misinformation spread by people seeking to make sense of a virus over which they feel they have little control.

MTN continues to work to raise awareness of the fact that there is no reliable scientific evidence of any link between 5G and COVID-19 and we remain focused on our efforts to combat the pandemic and support customers and society in these uncertain times.

We continue to prioritise the resilience and capacity of our networks, which provide the telecoms services that are vital in the fight against the novel coronavirus as well as the connectivity that customers need to remain economically active despite renewed lockdown restrictions in many markets.

In recent years, 5G mobile technology has undergone extensive research, with numerous studies finding that it has no negative impact on the environment nor people. This fact has been confirmed by leading global experts, independent professional groups and public health agencies, including the World Health Organization.

The United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union (ITU) says there is no scientific basis for the statements that link 5G to COVID-19. The International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) says that claims that exposure to the electromagnetic fields generated by 5G devices can cause COVID-19 are “not supported by any evidence”.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says that there is no correlation between 5G and COVID-19, adding: “5G is an advancement on today’s 4G technology, designed to transform the world positively”. MTN Nigeria Chairman Ernest Ndukwe has also added his voice to efforts to debunk the misinformation (Read more).

The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) has condemned theories linking 5G to COVID-19, saying: “The Authority would like to urge all South Africans not to be swayed by these conspiracy theories that are hell-bent on bringing instability and fear”.

University of Johannesburg Vice Chancellor Professor Tshilidzi Marwala has also added his voice, saying: “There is no causal connection between 5G technology and any biological virus, including COVID-19” and that 5G will positively and fundamentally transform communication (Read more).

The GMSA mobile industry organisation has condemned acts of arson against mobile phone masts, calling on internet giants, content providers and social media platforms to accelerate their efforts to “remove fake news linking 5G to the spread of COVID-19”.

MTN continues to act to address the challenges brought on by the disruption to economic activity and the restrictions on people’s movements that have accompanied the spread of COVID-19. We continue to prioritise people, customers and communities, as well as looking after our network and our business.

We remain driven to deliver on our belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life. The rollout of 5G into the future is key to our work to bring more people into the digital world and allow Africa to reap the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as the technology offers extensive network capacity; ultra-high-speed mobile connectivity; ultra-low latency as well as massive Internet-of-Things capabilities.

MTN steps up COVID fight with new campaign promoting mask-wearing

MTN is adding its voice to global efforts to raise awareness about the importance of wearing masks to fight the spread of COVID-19 with today’s launch of the #WearItForMe campaign across its markets.

As society navigates the “new normal” brought about by the pandemic, wearing face coverings remains one of the most effective measures to slow its spread. However, many people refuse to wear them, wear them incorrectly, or still underestimate their importance.

COVID-19 has had profound health and socioeconomic impacts across the world. We empathise and mourn the lives lost to the pandemic. And even though the outbreak appears to be slowing in Africa, now is not the time to be complacent,” says MTN’s incoming group president and CEO Ralph Mupita.

“With increasing evidence that masks can limit the spread of COVID-19, and eventually eliminate the disease if worn by 80-90% of the population, we need to do what we can to make a meaningful difference. Wearing a mask is not only about protecting oneself, but about respecting and protecting others,” says Mupita.

To help drive this behaviour, MTN is committing its September 2020 marketing resources to encourage everyone to do more to save lives. #WearItForMe is the second phase of MTN’s Y’ello Hope COVID-19 response initiative. It is a powerful call-to-action using the voices of some of the most influential people in our communities: mothers and mother-figures. They will send heartfelt messages to all the children of Africa to wear a mask and “wear it for me’’.

The campaign will build on MTN’s work carried out under Y’ello Hope to brighten lives and limit the impact of the pandemic, including through providing free data lifelines, zero-rated access to educational sites and using technology for contact tracing and information dissemination through the Africa COVID Communications and Information Platform.

Wearing a mask is, of course, not the only thing we all need to do to slow the spread of the virus: regular handwashing and strict social distancing are just as important,” concludes Mupita.

#WearItForMe will run throughout September. Visit www.wearitfor.me to send a message to someone to encourage them to do the right thing. #WearItForMe: Because when we all wear masks, we protect each other.

MTN assists with the development of the Africa COVID Communications and Information Platform

Together with host nations and strategic partners, MTN has supported in the establishment of the Africa COVID Communications and Information Platform (ACCIP) driven by the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and Africa Center for Disease Control (CDC) to assist countries on the continent respond to the impact of COVID-19.

The Platform launched today, aims to support each country’s national COVID-19 taskforce to enhance its ability to analyse the situation and implement the necessary responses, as well as direct resources to mitigate the health and economic impacts of the pandemic.

Together with the other partners, MTN has played a key role in the development of the platform as well as the creation and operationalisation of the mobile platform templates and operating protocols.

“As a pan-African company, we are vested in the continent’s development and its ability to rise out of the COVID-19 pandemic stronger than before. Driven to enable digital and financial inclusion, we felt it important to use our technology, expertise and network for the good of Africa and its people,” said MTN Group president and CEO Rob Shuter.

“As we worked with the various partners to develop the platform, we were mindful of the realities faced in African markets where smartphone penetration and internet penetration are low. This platform offers free-to-use services using a combination of text and voice interactions,” he added.

Set to reach more than 600 million users across the continent, the ACCIP represents an impressive mix of high and low tech to take practical advantage of the richness of data generated by users of even simple 2G phones.

Anonymous user-generated survey data will be transmitted to an artificial intelligence-driven system which will then combine it with public information from social and other digital channels for targeted analysis.

The ACCIP platform will allow policymakers to share insights and harness data to inform decision making at a regional and national level for the benefit of local populations. National authorities will ultimately also be able to conduct community-level messaging for social welfare, facilitating cash distribution (including e-payments) or targeted information on local food distribution or the provision of clean water. When data shows emerging virus hotspots, authorities will be able to direct medical resources to those areas, as well as alert residents of their availability.

MTN Group Announces R250m Relief Package to Tackle COVID-19 Pandemic across its operations

MTN Group today announced details of its R250 million relief package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Operating across 21 markets MTN Group has customised its response to recognize its responsibility to contribute both in its home market South Africa as well as in many other markets facing enormous challenges managing the pandemic. Comprising five key intervention initiatives, the Group has focused on employees, customers, vulnerable groups, contributions to the South African Government’s Solidarity Fund and participating in industry interventions.

“We believe it is the responsibility of all organisations to assist where they can during the pandemic.  MTN plays a vital role in the mobile and telecommunications industry across Africa and the Middle East and it is vital that we assist our employees, customers and stakeholders during this difficult time,” said Mcebisi Jonas, the Chairman of MTN Group. Believing that charity “begins at home”, the Group plans to raise R40 million for the MTN Global Staff Emergency Fund for employees in need.

The funds will be raised by contributions from the Group’s directors, managers and general staff. The Chairman, Group CEO, Group CFO and a number of MTN Group directors have pledged 30% of their board fees and salaries for the next three months. The executive teams of both MTN Group and MTN South Africa have also contributed to the fund. In addition, other staff members can also contribute by making salary sacrifices.

Furthermore, over R150 million will be invested in the Y’ello Hope Package for customers – that includes free SMS services, the waiving of fees for certain mobile money transactions, discounted calling during off-peak periods, zero-rating of certain health, social services and educational sites and payment concessions to our business customers. “Utilising our services and technologies for the greater good is key at the moment.  We can positively impact millions of lives and our main focus is on keeping our network in good working order and enable our customers to connect with their loved ones during this most difficult time for all,” said Rob Shuter, MTN Group President and CEO.

MTN is also mobilising the work of the MTN Foundations across the markets to reach those most vulnerable through contributions towards tackling health emergencies to minimise the spread of COVID-19 (Disease Commodity Packages and ICT services needed for Health Ministries and Health professionals); and enabling students to remain productive by accessing vital school and university content with a total contribution of at least R50 million.

MTN was born at the dawn of South African democracy and owes its heritage to the place of its birth.  MTN Group will also contribute R10 million to the South African Government’s Solidarity Fund. MTN will also leverage its knowledge and infrastructure in the continued participation in the many forums that have been set up to assist those in need.