Why telecentres are a forced initiative

GOVERNMENT

|
Image: at Rumphi café attendant Pinford Kawonga . By Vitus-Gregory Gondwe
at Rumphi café attendant Pinford Kawonga

By Gregory Gondwe, Blantyre, Malawi

MACRA thinks the telecentre initiative is a forced initiative because there are no legal instruments in place to provide for such facility without stint or limitations.

Currently Malawi does not have a national ICT policy to govern the operations of the ICT sector and MACRA says the prevailing policy document in the sector is the Communications Sector Policy Statement of 1998 which established reforms in the sector in terms of telecommunications, broadcasting, and postal services.

“Pursuant to the Policy, the Communication Act was enacted from where MACRA draws its regulatory mandate,” MACRA says.

The Authority explains that upon realizing the gap in terms of service provision between urban areas, which are commercially viable, and rural areas, which are commercially un-viable, it lobbied for the passing of the national ICT policy to encompass the establishment of a Rural Communication Development Fund (RCDF) catering for the rural and underserved areas.

“With the advent of the new technologies and the necessity to adapt the requirements of the ICT industry and further noting the importance of providing universal ICT services to Malawian citizens, the policy for universal access was proposed to be separated from the overall national ICT policy,” explains MACRA in a statement, which, among other things, explains the country’s ICT position.

MACRA says it drafted a Universal Access (AU) policy with funding from the World Bank, which proposed the establishment of the Universal Access Fund (UAF) to cater for the rural and underserved areas.

The establishment of UAF, the regulatory says necessitated a bill for the amendment of section 2 and 4 of the Communications Act as well as the introduction of a new section dealing with the establishment of the Universal Access Fund.

“Both the National ICT Policy and Universal Access Policy were presented to Government upon which a decision was made to merge the two policies into one over-arching national ICT policy,” MACRA explains. “This process is still on-going and the finalization of the policy us being coordinated by relevant arms of Government.”

The regulator says, in waiting for the passing of the policy to establish the UAF, they decided to come up with the telecentres.

This was in order to ensure that many people are reached with ICT services.

MACRA says apart from the initiative under the UA pilot project, it has also established other Multipurpose Community Telecentres (MCT’s) under various models through partnerships with Local management Committees (LMC’s), international organizations like the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and local entities like the Malawi Post Corporations (MPC).

Currently MACRA has facilitated about 50 MCTs spread all over the country through these various initiatives.

“Furthermore, MACRA will soon embark on the implementation of the Connect a Constituency Project which seeks to establish at least a Telecentre in all the 193 constituencies in Malawi,” says MACRA.

In this project which has already started taking shape in other constituencies, MACRA is providing the infrastructure and ICT equipment, while the National Assembly and other government departments like the E-Government department under the Office of President and cabinet is providing content and other solutions to ensure that Government services are brought to all Malawians even those in the rural areas.

“This project will facilitate governance and e-government services allowing the rural masses to access relevant Government information within their communities,” MACRA says.

The regulator further states that when the National ICT Policy is eventually passed, it has proposed to work on the principle of providing subsidy to allow operators roll-out infrastructure and services to rural and under-served areas as was done under the AU pilot project.

“This fact is reflected in the New MACRA logo, which was launched last year with the words ‘Promoting Universal ICT Access’,” the regulating body says.

Rumphi telecentreWhile all this is still a pipe dream, what is real on the ground are the telecentres and Tony Mkunika, a holder of an IT Diploma and Café attendant at Chitipa Telecentre, says his job is to teach the people about computers and internet as well as provide all other internet related services.

“Prior to the opening of this place we did put notices around the place where we announced the opening,” Mkunika said.

Ever since it opened its doors on August 10, 2010, Mkunika says most of the people that patronise the place are students, the working class, religious leaders and people from within the community who most of the time come without any idea what computers are and how the internet works.

“At the moment, I think people are now aware of how the internet works because of the announcement and explanation that was spread across,” he said.

A similar telecentre is also operational at Rumphi district headquarters, which café attendant Pinford Kawonga says opened in 2009.

“People from rural areas flock to this place to utilise the facility,” he claims. “You find that people will come here and ask you how you can assist them with a piece of information on a paper and when you check it you would find it is an email address, but they have no idea what it is.”

He says when you ask them they would tell him that they were given it by a relative who lives abroad and came to see them, and left it so that they use it to contact them.

In a day, he says more than 20 people patronise the facility – and at least between 5 and 7 of them are women.

He says for people to access internet they are supposed to buy Wi-Fi vouchers, which sell for K105 for 30 minutes.

“The challenge is that the service provider – Globe Internet – brings Wi-Fi vouchers that do not take long to run out but the company takes time before bringing us new vouchers again here and this really frustrates the users,” he says.

When all is said and done, success stories of the initiative keep coming while the country’s ICT policy is still undergoing drafting by the technocrats.



Share the News

Get Daily Newsletter

comments powered by Disqus

MORE GOVERNMENT NEWS

Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT addresses ITU Plenipotentiary Conference

Rwanda’s Minister of Youth and ICT, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, today addressed the 19th International Telecommunication Union plenipotentiary conference in South Korea. Read More

UNDP donates ICT equipment for DRC elections

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has donated ICT equipment to the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to support the electoral process in this war-hit Central African nation. Read More

Ghana govt to appoint interconnect clearing house

Ghana’s Minister of Communication has hinted at the government’s intention of appointing a company to take charge of the country’s interconnect clearing house by the end of this year.   Read More

IPO not foreigner-friendly

The CEO of BTCL, Paul Taylor, has allayed fears that foreigners resident in Botswana will snap up shares reserved for locals when his organisation starts the Initial Public Offering in November.  Read More

Congo Brazzaville’s bid to switch to e-agriculture

The Central African nation of Congo-Brazzaville has 10 million hectares of arable land, but has so far used only 2% of that land. Analysts believe that the country could 'move mountains' and eradicate hunger with the use of ICTs in improving agriculture. Read More

Malawi Agriculture transport system automated

In partnership with Techno Brain, Malawi’s Agriculture Ministry has launched the first Automated Fleet Management Information System in public service in Malawi. Read More

Telecom Namibia starts work on govt fibre network

Telecom Namibia Managing Director Frans Ndoroma says the national telecommunications services provider has started constructing a fibre-based network to connect the central government to the administrative capitals of all 14 regions in the country. Read More

NCC slams indigenous firms over incompetence

Internet Services CEO Olushola Teniola, ATCON President Lanre Ajayi and NCC EVC/CEO Dr Eugene Juwah The Nigerian Communications Commission has slammed indigenous operators in the industry over ‘incompetence and culture of impunity’. Read More

Malawi explores initiatives for rural mobile roll-out

The Government of Malawi is exploring ways and means to reach out to the far-flung areas with mobile phone service communication in line with the country’s revised Communications Act.  Read More

BOCRA cracks whip on hospitality industry

The Botswana Communications and Regulation Authority (BOCRA) has issued guidelines on minimum internet connectivity requirements for Botswana’s hospitality industry.  Read More

PRESS OFFICES

Sage ERP AfricaSAP AfricaSage Pastel AccountingTrust PayVMWareSamsung ElectronicsMitsumi DistributionPhoenix DistributionSage HR AfricaMTN BusinessSchneider ElectricMultichoice

FEATURED STORY

Growing African focus on data securityGrowing African focus on data security

Beachhead Solutions’ new SA and Mauritius country manager explains the challenges and solutions around securing customer data and compliance with new personal information legislation.

IN DEPTH

Africa lags on digital migration Africa lags on digital migration

Only three African countries have so far completed the digital migration process, and serious issues are hampering the migration in other nations.  

COMPANY NEWS

VMware reports third quarter 2014 results

VMware, the global leader in virtualization and cloud infrastructure, today announced Year-over-Year Revenue Growth of 18% to $1.52 Billion in its financial results for the third quarter ...

CNN, MultiChoice name top African Journalist 2014

Kenyan journalist Joseph Mathenge has been awarded the top prize at this year’s CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2014 Awards Ceremony.