Telkom is giving universities the chance to zero-rate access their websites so that students are able to access them without incurring data charges.

The decision to zero-rate this traffic for students comes amid ongoing student protests that have seen numerous universities closing their campuses.

“Our universities and institutions are key to empowering South Africans and creating growth in this country,” Telkom group chief executive officer, Sipho Maseko said in a statement. “We at Telkom believe it is essential that students are able to continue their studies despite the current political climate.”

In the interest of clarity, zero-rating of traffic to a university’s website is dependent on the university taking Telkom up on its offer. However it appears as if many universities are.

“The University of Pretoria has already implemented the solution. We expect all other universities to implement by tomorrow,” a Telkom spokesperson told htxt.africa in an email.

Telkom will not be passing along the cost of the data to universities and instead says that it will absorb the financial cost of this solution.

“Under normal circumstances, mobile data usage would then be reverse billed back to the institution – similar to the reverse-charges phone calls of previous years. However, during this critical period, Telkom has taken a decision to waive the data consumption costs until the end of the academic year.”

Telkom’s gesture, however, will supplement already existing efforts by some lecturers who’ve been independently adopting online tools in order to try and keep classes going.

“Some teachers in the Faculty of Law at UCT, as soon as classes were disrupted, decided to continue the tuition process. This varied in method: the uploading of materials with tutorial-type questions, podcasts, lecture recordings, voice-over PowerPoint presentations and the use of chatrooms,” Deputy Dean at the Faculty of Law at UCT, Alan Rycroft, tells us in an email.

“We hope that this small contribution on our part will assist students to complete the academic year as we work together to build an equitable system for all,” said Maseko.

[Image – CC BY SA 2.0 Ian Barbour]