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The importance of human connection - and finding new ways to do it

Research has shown that humans are a social species and that our brains and bodies have evolved in an environment where we depended on the closeness of and connection to others. Connections have also been shown to make us smarter and happier, and even boost our immunity.

"Now, more than ever, we want to feel safe and loved, and we need imaginative ways to connect with each other," says Jacqui O'Sullivan, Head of Corporate Affairs, MTN SA.

"During this crisis, we have seen incredibly creative, useful and inspiring connection ideas - from connected study classes and Facebook exercise classes to video conferencing with friends and family, and cooking tutorials via WhatsApp. These connections are helping us feel more resilient, confident and loved, and less isolated. We might be physically distanced from our friends and family, but these online connections are bringing us closer in many ways."

There are a number of apps that South Africans are using to stay in touch and stay connected during lockdown. Here are some favourites:

For work

Zoom: A favourite video conferencing platform, Zoom can be used for meetings, audio conferencing, Webinars and meeting recordings. The first 40 minutes of chatting are free and there are great features like virtual backgrounds and 'touch up your appearance'.

Slack: This is a chat app for your company that you can use to replace e-mail and collaborate better. You can use channels for group discussions or have one-on-one chats and share files and documents.

Yammer: This is a private social network for your company that will help you to connect with people and teams. It allows users to create public groups and private groups, share ideas, files, videos and more - essentially enabling employees to create a social space to connect and work.

Basecamp: This is another very effective productivity app that helps you organise projects and teams in one place, segment a project into many portions and assign tasks to each team member.

Skype: This is still one of the most loved and used platforms for personal and business communication, via chat, and voice and video calls. Users can also share files, images and documents.

"MTN is aware of how important network quality and coverage will be for businesses trying to meet their commercial obligations. To enable this, we're offering business customers 6.5GB of data bundles, free calls within their own user group (500 minutes) and free video and teleconferencing with a SIM-only R439 Made for Business month-to-month contract," continues O'Sullivan.

"In addition, for as little as R599 paid upfront, prepaid customers can get a 30GB Work from Home package, which includes 1GB of data per month over 12 months, 13GB once off data valid for 30 days, 5GB once off YouTube bundle valid for 30 days, for those in between work breaks, and a ShareLink Mi-Fi router that can connect up to ten devices."

For play

Houseparty: This video app allows for up to eight people to join. There are fun filters and sound effects, and users can play games such as Heads Up and Quick Draw.

Netflix Party: This app lets you watch Netflix with your friends and family online. It synchronises video playback and adds group chat to the show you want to watch.

Audible: Part of Amazon, Audible has released hundreds of free audiobooks for children.

Free museum tours and exhibits: Travel the world from your couch as museums and cultural institutions around the world offer free virtual tours, exhibits, videos and performances.

Yuppiechef Online Cooking School: Get unrestricted access to all online cooking school courses, which include video tutorials, course notes, guides and quizzes, worth more than R3 000.

SuperCook App and Fridge Food App: Find easy-to-follow recipe ideas from items already in your fridge or cupboard. So, no need to go to the shops.

What If: Ask your family and friends a set of challenging questions to keep connected during lockdown - and maybe even get to know each other a little better. There are 100 000 questions on the app to challenge you and pass the time. Some questions are personal, others could spark a debate among the members of your lockdown household.

"There are millions more unique and exciting apps and online entertainment ideas to try. And because we understand that more data is needed to enjoy these types of apps, MTN is offering postpaid or contract customers up to 120GB for R299. It includes 40 anytime and 80GB night Express data. We could only offer 80GB for the same price last year, so the value for money that customer receive has increased considerably," says O'Sullivan.

"Although these are very trying times, we remain confident that our MTN customers will get a seamless network experience and connectivity that is second to none in South Africa as they venture into the new and wonderful virtual world of apps and programmes.

"MTN also offers all MTN ayoba subscribers free 20MB of data daily. The beauty about ayoba is that it is free for MTN customers and can also be used by customers who use basic and feature phones - allowing them to stay connected to their loved ones."

MTN during lockdown

"For convenience during this time, customers are still able to buy devices, recharge and manage their MTN services from home via our online store. We are in this lockdown together, and our focus remains to give our customers all the support they need to stay connected to their friends, family and social lives for the next few weeks," says O'Sullivan. "Our new TVC reflects this sentiment - we're in this together!"

"We encourage our customers to download the MTN App on Google Play or the Apple store and make use of our self-service channels to recharge, buy bundles and manage their accounts. These include bundle purchases through our USSD lines, through WhatsApp and on the Web site. All of our online services are zero-rated so that you won't use any data and our call centres are still open if clients have any questions or concerns," concludes O'Sullivan.

"And if you need to upgrade, you can still do so. Our online store will provide you with all our latest deals and the ability to sign-up or upgrade in the safety of your own home. Our courier partner will continue to deliver your device during lockdown, according to strict safety and sanitation guidelines."

View details on all MTN's self-service channels, still operational during lockdown, here:

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MTN Group

Launched in 1994, the MTN Group is a leading emerging markets operator with a clear vision to lead the delivery of a bold new digital world to our 240 million customers in 21 countries in Africa and the Middle East. We are inspired by our belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern connected life. The MTN Group is listed on the JSE Securities Exchange in South Africa under the share code "MTN". We are pursuing our BRIGHT strategy with a major focus on growth in data, fintech and digital businesses.

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