Malawi launches Internet Governance Forum
By Gregory Gondwe, Blantyre, Malawi
The Malawi Government and the New Partnership for Development (Nepad) have launched the Malawi Internet Governance Forum (Malawi IGF) in an effort to bring a semblance of order in the internet services in the country.
Speaking at the event, the Head of Nepad's e-Africa Programme, Dr. Edmund Katiti, said that with the launch, Malawi would now be able to take advantage of the global internet economy.
“We are happy to be part of the kick-starting process of Malawi’s Internet Governance Forum,” he declared.
Katiti said they have been trying to work with countries in the region but it is encouraging that Malawi has been the first country to come through with IGF this year and becomes only the third after South Africa and Tanzania to have a forum in SADC.
“Having ICT under the office of president is the best practice to give ICT the weight it deserves,” he said.
The E-Government in Malawi is under the Office of President and cabinet.
Speaking before the official launch E-Government Principal Secretary Olive Chikankheni said government appreciate the need to govern internet because as a global network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business and government networks, linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless, and optical networking technologies, and therefore, carrying extensive range of information resources and services, there is need that it be governed.
“As a member of the United Nations, African Union and SADC organisations which have called on their members to have IGFs, Malawi celebrated the Malawi-IGF and committees to ensure that there is maximum multi-stakeholder participation in the forum foe internet related policy dialogue,” she said.
Chikankheni said the forum will bring together business, nongovernmental organisations, government and end users to discuss internet related policy issues, exchange ideas and best practices, and help shape the future of the internet in an open, inclusive and sustainable setting.
“I trust that the Malawi Internet Governance Forum will produce good fruits in the very near future,” she said before mentioning some of the fruits as being the improved internet governance locally and globally, lower internet service charges, both vertical and horizontal increase in internet use, enhancement e-government and realisation of “An ICT-led Malawi” as the country moves from predominantly producing to exporting country.
She said the forum should certainly participate in promoting ICT for both inclusive and sustainable development. The current indicators call for more concerted effort in this area.
She said the ICT sector has contributed 3.5 percentages to the country’s GDP in 2010 to 3.8 percent in 2013 and this is expected to reach 3.9 this year.
The PS says it is the hope of government that the Forum will improve this contribution tremendously.
Chairperson of the The country’s National ICT Working Group (NICTWG) which will coordinate the forum’s functions Seyani Nayeja said Malawi will now achieve global recognition with the launch of the forum.
“We either have to adapt or die,” he declared.
“This will give us an opportunity to give platform to discuss the use and misuse of internet and provide solutions in internet use. We need to make this work. This is a live activism of voluntary participation. We should work towards a common good,” said Nayeja during the launch.
He said since NICTWG will be coordinating the forum for the next five years it will facilitate the sharing of skills and knowledge gathered elsewhere by members so that it moves with speed.
“With the forum we have now set the scene for our future generation,” he said.
Ben Chitsonga who is the Director of Finance and Administration of the Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) observed during the launch that internet has become one of the critical tools for human survival.
“We will ensure that it is well resources,” he pledged.
He said the forum will reduce the burden of networking and consultation as with the forum it will be one stop shop.
Before the launch stakeholders discusses about launching of the forum and the end result was coming up with a document called the Malawi Internet Governance Forum (Malawi IGF) Charter
The charter says the forum’s aim is to provide a platform for inclusive multi-stakeholder discussions in the issues pertinent to the internet in Malawi n general and internet Governance issues in particular
The country’s National ICT Working Group (NICTWG), according to the charter will coordinate the activities of the Malawi IGF while the Department of E-Government will be the secretariat and coordination of the forum will be reviewed within a specified period.
The charter says the overall objective of the forum is to establish a multi-stakeholder process that will shape the development of Malawi’s internet economy with a number of specific objectives.
This will include increasing awareness and build capacity on internet governance issues amongst stakeholders in Malawi, facilitating the participation of a broad range of Malawian stakeholders in regional and global internet governance and ensure that national concerns are taken into account and shaping and informing national policy on development of the internet and ICTs.
The charter says other specific objectives include contributing in strengthening the multi-stakeholder dialogue model for internet Governance in the SADC region and Africa and provision of a consultative and participatory platform for multi-stakeholder discussions and dialogue on internet government issues.
The charter says amongst the activities of the forum will undertake will be facilitating and organising main sessions, workshops, as well as open forums discussions, regional, national and subject area initiatives.
The charter also looks at the dissolution of the forum which says it seek a new mandate every 5 years.