Malawi’s ICT sector reorganised
By Gregory Gondwe, Blantyre, Malawi
The Malawi Government has conceded that its ICT sector is in disarray as it is operating in incoherent and uncoordinated way leading to duplication of activities and misdirection.
As a result of this Government has devised a new approach where different stakeholders are now banging heads to come up with a joint sector strategy in the ICT sector that will semblance order in the sector.
Deputy Director Responsible for Planning in the ministry of information, tourism and civic education Humphrey Mdyetseni told Biztechafrica that this will be possible with the launch of the sector working group for the information, communication, technology and research and development in Lilongwe.
“What is happening at the moment is that in the absence of sector based approach or strategies in the ICT Sector we cannot tell like as to who is doing what, where and how and in the process somebody would also end up doing exactly the same thing,” he said.
The Government official said having decided what direction the country wants to take, they have brought together stakeholders to agree on what programmes and activities are going to be implemented and who does what and how.
The stakeholders include public institutions, ministries, government departments and agencies, private sector, the media, civil society organisations that are in the ICT sector, development partners and institutions, like those in training and research.
Mdyetseni explained that now that different stakeholders who are key players in the ICT sector have been brought together for this purpose, the benefits are that from now onwards all important players in the ICT sector will be taking part in the formulation of policies, and other strategic programmes that government and partners may wish to be implementing.
“So in essence this will encourage joint planning and it is no longer going to be only government dictating or calling the shots but other stakeholders will be coming in to give ideas,” he said.
Mdyetseni said the most notable product that is going to come out of this process is what they call a Joint Sector Strategy which is simply a plan of action which is going to decide what direction they should take as a country in as far as ICT is concerned.
“You know as a country we have been mourning that Government is monopolising information but through sector working group reports are going to be presented on what has been achieved; where the problems are; so in the process it will be like a gateway towards releasing important information to stakeholders. We believe that it will now be like an opening in informing Malawians properly on what is happening,” he said.
Mdyetseni explained that the launch is as a result of Government declaration of 2008 that Malawi should start operationalising the formulation, implementation, and monitoring of the development policies and agenda using sector working groups.
“In our ministry we were not proactive in terms of operationalising our sector working group so we were called to action somewhere early in June that we should now start operationalising the sector working groups,” he said.
He said in all this the most recognisable benefit of this process is that the collective output that is going be realised will input into the formation of Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MDGSIII).
“You know that next year, we are concluding as a country in implementing MGDSII,” he said adding that now as a preparatory process of coming up with MDGSIII government departments are leading respective institutions within their sectors to come up with inputs to the document.
The ICT joint sector strategy would give opportunity to stakeholders to be part and parcel of the formulation of the next policy agenda for the country with respect to the ICT sector.
“The second benefit is that apart from contributing to the formulation of the next policy agenda the key stakeholders that have gathered here including others that may not have been available at this point in time will also take an active role in the implementation of that policy agenda because everyone is going to have his own action and we are going to be coming together to be taking stock of what has been implemented and how far have we gone in terms of success,” he said.
The Government official also said one thing which the process is going to improve upon is the quality or standard of the way they are doing things in the ICT sector.
“Because having agreed on what are the minimum standards of what we are going to produce, the quantities of how much of that particular commodity we should produce as a country then everybody will attempt to adhere to those set standards, to those agreed upon qualities so that at the end of the day we are not a country that is just producing something willy-nilly or everyone is doing things wantonly but rather we are following a set standard guidelines and coordinated procedures,” he said.
He also said that under MGDSII there were a number of policies that were supposed to be finalised or formulated and implemented in the ICT sector.
“For instance we had the access to information bill, the communication bill, the e-transactions bill; some of them are at an advanced stage, some have been presented before cabinet, others are at final stages of drafting,” he said.
He acknowledged that failure to pass most of these has created an absence of the law making it is difficult to enforce a particular standard or a particular way of behaving in a particular field so the ICT sector has not been spared.
“So we believe that the MDGSIII gives us an opportunity as it gives us an impetus to conclude these important processes because they are going to be part of the deliverables in the MDGSIII,” he said.
Mdyetseni said having delivered on these important pieces of legislation and policies guidelines then as government and stakeholders they are going to be collectively responsible for ensuring that the agreed upon standards translate into reality on the ground.
“We are looking at this process as having come at a right time when we are looking at Government and partners holding hands in terms of spearheading the formulation of drawn policies and implementing actions that relate to those development policies and above all collectively account for the actions that will emanate from those policies and programmes,” he said.