Rethink ICT infrastructure investment—experts

In a world where technology is becoming less of a luxury, one would not need to be told that the pace at which information and communications technology (ICT) has come to take its place in a world of data revolution.

While data on some people, especially the poorest and the excluded, is almost nonexistent, the reality that the world is going digital cannot be overlooked.

Available statistics from the Internet World Statistics indicate that as of June 2017, internet penetration stood at 9.6 percent, far below the Sub-Saharan region average of 31.2 percent.

Our neighbours Mozambique (17.5 percent), South Africa (54 percent), Tanzania (13 percent), and Zambia (30.1 percent) seem to be ahead of us.

This is also aside from the fact that Malawi is one of the most expensive countries when it comes to data prices, the second highest from Sierra Leone in the regions, according to mHub founder Rachel Sibande.

This is despite government investments in the ICT infrastructure in the country like the $23 million (about K16.9 billion) Malawi National Fibre Backbone Project and the $20 million (about 14 billion) Regional Communications Infrastructure Program-Malawi Project (RCIPMW).

According to the Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC), the investment was supposed to bring down internet prices by 75 percent.

ICT Association of Malawi (Ictam) president Wisely Phiri speaking to ICT experts in Mangochi on Saturday said businesses should rethink investment in technology.

“Forget about oil and all that, data is Malawi’s next big thing. Unfortunately, most of the data is not residing in Malawi. Internet prices is supposed to go down by 75 percent but the problem is, we are looking at this from the wrong side because most of the data we are accessing as a country comes from the servers which are outside Malawi.

“If you look at the investments happening, the major issue is lack of local content as everything we are generating is coming from outside Malawi,” he said.

Phiri explains that coupled with the current electricity challenges it will be difficult to manage a data centre.

Malawi SDN coordinator and Ictam 2017 innovation forum life time achiever Paulosi Nyirenda said there is need to spread investments being made in optic fibre, if costs are to be minimised.

“Reliable internet provider needs to connect multiple sources, one initiative is not enough. The infrastructure is relatively good. What I see is we have multiple fibres that even provide more capacity than what we need in a very long time.

“So what I see is a lot of duplicity; what is needed is data coordination of how the infrastructure is being installed. For example, between Blantyre and Lilongwe, we have MTL, Airtel, SimbaNet and Escom. Only one fibre connection was needed which is enough to carry all traffic and money should have gone to establish other areas,” he explained.

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