On the 26th of March 2020 the Minister of Communications gazetted regulations under the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002. The purpose of these regulations is to ensure that digital technologies are used to their fullest extent to assist with combating the COVID-19 outbreak.

The regulations apply for the most part to electronic communications service providers and electronic communications network service providers (the companies that run the networks and the companies that route the content over those networks, like ISPs, respectively). It also applies to broadcasters, the Post Office and a few others. The regulations are applicable during the period of declared national disaster.

This is a summary of the most important provisions:

  • Service providers are obliged to receive and disseminate public information relating to COVID-19.
  • Service Providers with access to radio spectrum (like cell phone companies) must make their spectrum available for streaming of public announcements.
  • Service Providers (primarily ISPs) must remove fake news immediately when it has been identified as such (by whom is not clear).
  • All websites in the .za namespace must contain a link on their home pages to the URL sacoronavirus.co.za. As the regulations apply to service providers and not the general public, it is not clear whether there is an obligation for every website operator to give effect to this. Nonetheless doing so should be encouraged.
  • Service Providers must ensure continued service provision.
  • Service providers must temporarily deploy services and networks in areas identified by relevant minsters.
  • Rules relating to approval of infrastructure deployment are relaxed. This includes a relaxation to requirements for wayleaves (the permission to lay lines, erect aerials etc on private land), and to radio spectrum regulation.
  • Service providers must co-operate with the relevant authorities in providing location-based services. The purpose of this is to make tracking the spread of the disease easier. This includes tracking and tracing specific individuals who are infected or are likely to be infected.
  • Access to local educational content website must be zero-rated and service providers with high-demand spectrum must provide a minimum connectivity speed of 10Mb/s to certain virtual classroom platforms.
  • Mobile network operators (cell phone companies) must provide free access to all COVID-19-related sites identified by the Department of Health.

A copy of the regulations can be found here