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Electronic Communications Sector: COVID-19 Highlights

Ezra Pillay LexisNexis
Ezra Pillay LexisNexis

by Ezra Pillay, Compliance Specialist, LexisNexis South Africa 

The Electronic Communication sector of South Africa has seen many changes to its legislative universe as well as important omissions. This includes the omission, likely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, of the much-anticipated Protection of Personal Information Act No 4 of 2013, widely expected to be enacted on the first of April 2020.

The Information Regulator has, however, established its position as an active regulator within the sector by publishing the PPI COVID-19 Guidance Note. This Note provides for proactive compliance by responsible parties when processing personal information of data subjects who have tested positive for, or who are infected with COVID-19, or who have been in contact with those who have been.

What separates this pandemic from those past, is the connectivity of the global village which offers the ability to share, communicate, unite and divide all within the space of seconds. While the outstanding benefit of this ability is the speed in which information can be disseminated and acted upon, a clear and present risk is also the speed of which fake information can be disseminated and acted upon, making the electronic communication sector of utmost importance for the functioning of business, government and the wellbeing of the public. 

The start of the lockdown saw the mobilisation of key telecommunication institutions with regulations that prescribe minimum standards that apply to all authorisations, certificates, applications and registrations made in terms of the Electronic Communications Act No. 36 of 2005; Broadcasting Act No. 4 of 1999 and the Postal Services Act No. 124 of 1998. This included the Implementation of the ‘111’ service code in harmony with the mandate of COVID-19 national emergency services, which allows for the access to emergency services at no charges to the caller or sender.

These regulations all provide for the wellbeing of South African Businesses, its people and for government functions. Together with the various information portals set up to ensure the existence of sources of reliable information, these not only display the concern of the South African administration for the wellbeing of South Africa, but also for her people and their livelihoods.  

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