Study exposes shortcomings in Malawi’s ICT indicators
| Aug. 4, 2013, 6:26 a.m.
By Gregory Gondwe, Blantyre, Malawi
A study by a Monitoring and Evaluation consultant engaged by the Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) of Malawi to weigh up how the process of implementing the Regional Communications Infrastructure Program – Malawi (RCIPMW) is ongoing, has exposed glaring challenges to come with the country’s ICT indicators.
The consultant, Dr. Paulos Nyirenda, who has since compiled a report called ‘Malawi ICT Sector Key ICT indicators on Infrastructure’ says a number of organisations in Malawi, including the National Statistical Office (NSO) and the Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA), have made attempts to collect and present data on the ICT sector in Malawi.
“However without a National ICT Policy in Malawi, these attempts have lacked direction and coordination,” says Dr Nyirenda who is the manager of the Malawi .mw ccTLD.
He says the data so produced has not been adequate nor been accurate enough to satisfy globally agreed indicator requirements, for example, as listed and published by the United Nations.
Dr. Nyirenda, who is also the national Coordinator of Malawi Sustainable Development Network Programme (SDNP), an internet service provider, says there is also a lack of agreement, on a national level, for a set of indicators to be maintained in Malawi.
“The regulator, MACRA, collects data on the ICT sector in order to satisfy the requirements of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), says Nyirenda but he, however, says the resulting assembled data at the ITU is not publicly available and access to ITU publications often attracts a fee.
Nyirenda, an academic member of staff in the Physics Department of the University of Malawi, also states in the report that recent surveys conducted by the NSO in 2008 to 2010 included ICT on their questionnaires and reports.
He said, however, the date collected and reported does not conform to globally agreed indicators on ICT.
Recognising how elusive efforts to have ICT indicators for Malawi have always been, government instituted National ICT Working Group (NICTWG) under the Ministry of Information and Civic Education to, among other activities, consider, deliberate on and advise on issues concerning ICT policy.
Nyirenda says among its activities, the NCITWG has made a number of attempts to agree on a national set of indicators for the ICT sector in Malawi.
“However, despite holding several meetings, consultations and workshops, the group has not reached nor published any final decision nor has government approved its draft set of proposed indicators,” explains Nyirenda who the current ccNSO Council member representing the Africa region.
PPPC says it is undertaking monitoring and evaluation activities of the ICT sector in order to ensure that planned activities of the programme are implemented in line with the agreed implementation plans and given the importance of this programme.
The monitoring activities include extensive data collection on the ICT sector in Malawi. The PPPC in conjunction with MACRA and the e-Government Department are grateful to all organisations who participated in the exercise by submitting data, without whose cooperation’s, it would not have been possible to draft the report.
In the report, whose issuance PPPC has published in the local media, an attempt to come up with a set of indicators has been attempted.
“At this first stage of monitoring and evaluation, it, therefore became necessary to draw up a new set of indicators that would satisfy the agreed requirements for the project as well as provide additionally much needed data and indicators on the national ICT sector in Malawi.
Process to agree on indicators,” said Nyirenda to justify the action.
In order to draw up a list of indicators to be used for monitoring and evaluation and data collection on the RCIPMW project, he said he had a number of meetings involving PPPC, MACRA, and ministry of information and civic education.
“The aim was to come up with a set of indicators that covered the minimal KPI [key performance indicators] set listed in the RCIPMW programme document and add others deemed important to the national scene,” he said.
PPPC says RCIPMW is a Government of Malawi led intervention in the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) sector whose objectives are to support policy and legislative reforms and to provide affordable internet capacity to the nation.
“The overall aim of the RCIPMW project is to improve the quality, availability and affordability of internet and broadband in Malawi by, among other activities, promoting economic efficiency, increasing the number of cross border fibre connections and leveraging purchasing power of government to provide its sustainability,” a media statement issued by PPPC says, stressing that RCIPMW falls within the World Bank’s RCIP Program.
The project is also facilitating the review of policy and legal framework in the ICT sector.
“Better statistics can lead to improved planning, monitoring and management of performance indicators by policy makers, regulators, consumers and service providers,” says PPPC in the statement.
In the monitoring and evaluation consultancy report, an attempt has been made by Dr. Nyirenda who has also published in the report a list of indicators that was used and it included indicators on fixed telephone network; mobile network; internet; fixed wired broadband subscription by technology; fixed wired broadband by speed; wireless broadband and traffic.
It also included fixed wired broadband internet tariffs, revenue and others that included the number of internet domains in Malawi, Presence of IXP which established the number of ISPs connected to IXP, number of international Gateways and total length of fibre optic cable.
For the Monitoring and evaluation proposed, Nyirenda says it was agreed that the list of indicators be divided into two components; one was where there were indicators that can be obtained by assessing ICT licensed operators, services providers and other organisations as licensed by MACRA.
Examination of the list in the report shows that more than 84 percent of the agreed indicators can be determined by such assessment of ICT licensed entities and would cover nearly all those on infrastructure and access.
The other indicators were those that require a nation-wide survey of the population, most of these involving ICT users.
Using the data from organisations with an ICT licence the consultant has so far come forth with ICT indicators in Malawi which has put a number of fixed telephone lines in urban and rural areas to 74, 532.
It has also established that total capacity of local public switching exchanges are 447, 360; while 100 percent of fixed telephone lines are connected to digital exchange.
Malawi has no analogue fixed telephone lines, while 45.41 percent of fixed telephone lines are in rural areas and the remainder in urban areas.
On the mobile network, it has been established that both post paid and prepaid mobile cellular telephone subscription in Malawi is at 3,951,572, with a number of mobile cellular subscriptions with access to data communications at broadband speeds at 176,086.
Malawi’s mobile cellular network land area coverage is at 99.55 percent while a total number of mobile cellular subscriptions to low and medium speed access to data communications is at 355,867.
On the internet the M and E report indicates that Malawi has 1,599 total fixed or wired internet subscriptions, while the country’s international internet bandwidth (Mbit/s) is 1,940. International Outgoing internet bandwidth (Mbit/s) is 928 as opposed to 1,012 of the Incoming internet bandwidth (Mbit/s).
Malawi’s domestic internet bandwidth is 1,151, while domestic download internet bandwidth is 613 and 538 for the upload.
On fixed or wired broadband subscriptions by technology, it was established that Malawi has a total of 1,197 fixed or wired broadband internet subscriptions, and 1,075 DSL internet subscriptions and 27 fibre to home or building subscriptions.