Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has approved new requirements for South African ISPs and website owners as part of the government’s plan to fight the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
In a government gazette [PDF Link] dated 26 March 2020, the Department of Communications detailed interventions around the “dissemination of information” in the country.
The purpose of the new directions is to facilitate the availability and use of digital technologies to combat the spread of COVID-19 in South Africa.
The directions include guidelines aimed at ensuring the smooth operations of telecoms networks and disseminating COVID-19 information to citizens.
The directions include a section which deals solely with the dissemination of information. The new rules include:
- Broadcasting Licensees are required to receive and disseminate public information related to the national effort to combat the spread of COVID-19.
- All Licensees with access to radio frequency spectrum are required to make available their platforms for the streaming of public announcements to their subscribers.
- Electronic Communications Services Licensees, OTTs and ISPs must remove fake news related to COVID-19 from their platforms immediately after it is identified as such.
- All Internet sites operating within .zaDNA top level domain name must have a landing page with a visible link to www.sacoronavirus.co.za.
- Licensees must provide zero-rated access to local educational content websites.
- Audio visual services, especially the broadcasting services licensees, must increase their educational programmes to support awareness of COVID-19.
- Licensees with access to high-demand spectrum must make available connectivity to 104 district virtual classroom platforms with minimum speeds of 10Mbps to support virtual teaching during the COVID-19 national disaster.
These regulations may catch many .za website owners off guard, as many domains do not have a website hosted on the domain.
ISPs may also face challenges to put measures in place to enable the removal of fake news from their platforms.