Exorbitant data costs
South Africa has some of the highest mobile data costs in the world. Instead of unleashing the potentially transformative power of near-universal access to the internet through mobile devices, the high data cost instead contributes to a widening of the digital divide, because people who cannot afford to pay for data also can’t access public benefit websites, even though the content on these sites is free.
To address this issue, the DGMT spearheaded a civil society campaign that started in 2018 to have the websites of public benefit organisations zero-rated. During the hard lockdown in 2020 when educational institutions were closed, the necessity for data free access became painfully clear, as millions of children were stranded in homes with no resources. The campaign gained momentum and in October 2020 it was gazetted that mobile data providers must “zero-rate all the mobile content provided by public benefit organisations including government websites.”
Book Dash is one of the organisations that benefited from this ruling. Our books are already free for anyone to read online, download and adapt as needed. But immediately after our website was zero-rated, we saw a massive surge in users visiting the site reading and enjoying our books. It was heartening to see how many of these new visitors to the Book Dash site were South African.
Partners with free and data-free resources
Many of Book Dash’s partner organisations who work in ECD and literacy education, have a section for resources on their website or portals. These resources are often a combination of reading materials (including our books and other reading resources), and activities for ECD practitioners and/or parents. Many of these sites and portals are also zero-rated, and all resources can be accessed online without using any data. (By the way, on the data-free Book Dash website we also have 53 audio books too.)
Here are a few of our favourite data free sites and services; visit them to see and use the variety of excellent tools and content that is freely available:
- Shine Literacy’s data-free mobi site called Story Time with resources (including audiobooks) in Afrikaans, English and isiXhosa: shineliteracy.org.za
- Wordworks’ home learning resources in Afrikaans, isiZulu, isiXhosa and English: wwhomeliteracy.org.za, including a link to their mobi site: wwhomeliteracy.org.za/wordworks_app
- The Do More Foundation’s portal with parenting resources: domore.org.za/parenting-resources
- Thanda projects’ learning portal with resources (stories and activities) in English and isiZulu: thanda.org/learn
- Nal’ibali’s resources in eight South African languages: nalibali.org/story-resources
- Moya Messenger App (moya.app) is a data-free alternative to tools like WhatsApp: as long as you are on a partnered mobile network operator, and visit data free apps only, Moya will not use any of your airtime or data balance. It also features a wide variety of apps in its "Discover" panel, including Book Dash books.