ATU Calls for Joint Action by Regulators & Operators in Africa to Combat Coronavirus Pandemic

ATU - cfamedia

Regulators should implement the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) to enable authorities to effectively prevent and mitigate the spread of Covid-19

The African Telecommunications Union (ATU), a specialised agency of the African Union in the field of telecommunications, has put together a set of guidelines to assist in combating the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, that every Member State should consider.

Africa has so far recorded relatively few coronavirus cases compared to the rest of the world. Twenty-seven African countries have recorded over 357 coronavirus cases, according to the World Health Organization.

However, Heads of States and Governments across the continent are taking no chances as they race to stop the spread of the virus by sensitizing their citizens about the pandemic and the various ways to combat the disease.

Globally, telecoms/ICTs have become a pillar in the prevention, preparedness and response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ATU, through the Secretary-General, Mr John Omo, is urging the Ministries of ICT, through the telecommunications regulators and operators in the Member States, to consider implementing the following recommendations/guidelines to fight COVID-19 pandemic:

Activation of the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP)

Regulators should implement the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) to enable authorities to effectively prevent and mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

The CAP involves the use of multiple modes of communication to educate Members of the public including vulnerable groups about the disease as well as the preventive measures.

The CAP will make it possible for members of the public to receive CAP-originated information in many ways, such as through mobile and landline telephones, Internet, sirens (in-building or outdoor), broadcast radio and television, cable television, emergency radio, amateur radio, satellite direct broadcast, and digital signage networks, among others.

Collaborative Practical Measures Regulators should adopt the following:
Network Capacity

Fixed and mobile telephony providers should reserve some dedicated network capacity which should be made available free of charge to the authorities handling Covid-19.

Emergency Numbers

Fixed and mobile telephony providers should implement and enable the emergency numbers, for example 119, for voice messaging and promote short message service (SMS) as an alternative to telephony communications during this period.

Emergency agencies – such as police, ministries of health and hospitals should adequately size their network capacity, e.g. lines and access trunks, to offer an efficient service when call demand is high.

Also, telecommunication providers and amateur radio operators need to perform periodic emergency drills together.

The public should adequately be informed of the availability of the service free of charge.

Guidelines for action during emergencies

Calls to emergency numbers should be free. Local and long-distance backbone providers must have redundancy networks to handle traffic from other providers that experience difficulties.

Broadcasters should support communication and messaging strategies to the public in coordination with all the other agencies that are involved.

Amateur radio operators and simplification of type-approval processes

Radio amateurs are community based and should be involved in the information dissemination mitigation processes for Covid-19.

Any type-approval acceptance could be waived during the period of emergency for equipment to be used by amateur radio operators or those processes simplified in order to gain time, for example, not subjecting such equipment to taxation at all.

Regulatory authorities should recognize foreign type approvals to expedite the process and rely on the guidelines of the ITU Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T).

Featured Image: Mr. John Omo, Secretary-General, African Telecommunications Union

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