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Companies drop data charges for pandemic information

Digicel and Vodafone have dropped data charges for access to websites with official COVID-19 information, and for online learning platforms for students in a bid to ease the economic burden of the pandemic.

Digicel has established a tertiary student SIM card plan, which allows students and teachers to access school websites and student email; online learning platforms such as ‘Moodle’; and resources such as Google Scholar for free. 

The data packages include bonuses for every “top up” made.

For all Digicel users, Government websites for the Ministry of Health, the Disaster Management Office, Police and Emergency Services and the Ministry of Education can all be accessed at no charge. The World Health Organisation COVID-19 site will also not incur any charges.

The company’s Chief Executive Officer, Mark Witthuhn, said helping students complete their studies and combatting online misinformation online were two ways the company could help during a time of national emergency, 

“We are doing our part as an essential service in the telecommunication sector to assist our Samoan community during this time,” he said. 

“A simple check-up on family and friends and communicating that everyone is ok is very important at this stage.”

Mr. Witthuhn also warned of likely congestion on the network with the internet slowing as businesses and Ministries move to work remotely.

“In this respect, customers and the public alike are advised to exercise patience and understanding at times of network congestions as priority is given to essential services sectors,” he said. 

Vodafone has also removed data charges for student-centred websites plus the Ministry of Health website.

It has also established remote and work from home solutions for businesses and is giving all its customers one gigabyte of free data for the month of April.

“We understand how much it means to stay connected with colleagues, family and friends,” the company said in a statement.

“We know there is going to be a bigger demand on our network, and we are prepared for this.

Vodafone is also offering free Moana TV for the next month (March 21 to April 20). 

Customers who have not paid their bills on time will not have their plans terminated until the end of May.

The Chief Executive Officer of the company, Satish Sharma, said he encouraged users to use the mobile money application M-Tala to buy goods and services, and pay for power and water bills without the need to visit shopfronts. 

Both Digicel and Vodafone mobile money are connected to the e-commerce application Maua through which vendors and restaurants sell their goods through a delivery or pick up service, which has stepped up its sanitation systems and physical distancing measures from clients during the emergency.

“We are in this together and we stand ready to assist where possible,” Mr. Sharma, said.

Websites free of charge on Digicel student sim cards:

•                    MESC – https://mesc.gov.ws

•                    Google – https://scholar.google.com

•                    Samoa Knowledge Society – https://samoaks.ws 

•                    NUS: http://maril.student.nus.edu.ws 

•                    NUS: https://mail.google.com/a/nus.edu.ws

•                    NUS Moodle: https://nusmoodle.ws 

•                    NUS: https://onlinestudy.nus.edu.ws 

•                    NUS: https://www.nus.edu.ws

•                    USP: https://elearn.usp.ac.fj/

•                    USP: www.usp.ac.fj/alafua

Official channels, that any Digicel customer will be able to access for free and any data or credit related charges will not apply:

•                    Government of Samoa - http://www.samoagovt.ws

•                    World Health Organization - https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

•                    Ministry of Health - https://www.health.gov.ws

•                    DMO - https://www.mnre.gov.ws/about-us/divisions/disaster-management-office/

•                    MESC - http://mesc.gov.ws

•                    SFESA - https://www.sfesa.ws

•                    Police - https://www.samoapolice.ws

Vodafone list of websites with no data charge for Student Sims:

·         nus.edu.ws

·         onlinestudy.nus.edu.ws

·         mail.google.com/a/nus.edu.ws

·         mail.student.nus.edu.ws

·         health.gov.ws

·         mesc.gov.ws

·         elearn.usp.ac.fj

·         student.usp.ac.fj

·         usp.ac.fj

·         studyladder.co.nz

 



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