Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has projected an increase in its revenue collection from telecommunications network operators following the rolling out of the Consolidated ICT Regulatory Management System (Cirms) last week.
Speaking in an interview in Blantyre on Friday, Macra director general Andrew Kumbatira said Cirms, dubbed ‘the spy machine’ by its critics, would give Macra revenue assurance as it would no longer rely on data from operators.
He said the economy had been losing $50 000 (about K22.5 million) daily in potential revenue for not using Cirms and relying on data provided by operators.
Said Kumbatira: “Now that the [Malawi Supreme] court has allowed us to roll out Cirms, we expect to be getting in excess of K500 million [about K6 billion] extra every month from the operators.
“This money would be invested in the development of telecommunications infrastructure such as towers where operators cannot erect one as well as increasing access to information and communication technology nationwide.”
Kumbatira was speaking in the interview amid reports that some telecommunications operators had already increased their monthly revenue remittance to Macra in the wake of the ruling by the Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal last September.
The Malawi Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that Macra can start using Cirms, throwing out an application by two concerned citizens—Hophmally Makande and Eric Sabwera—who had argued that through the machine, Macra would be listening to people’s conversations and accessing short message service (SMS), thereby infringing on people’s right to privacy.
Cirms is designed to improve Macra’s regulatory monitoring functions in four key areas of quality of service, revenue assurance, fraud management and spectrum allocation and management.
Malawi has one of the highest rates of dropped calls and poor quality of service which consumers have argued does not match the high tariffs charged by operators.
Kumbatira said there is nothing peculiar Macra would be doing using Cirms other than automatic data collection on operators performance.
He said: “In the absence of Cirms, Macra was relying on data from operators, but Cirms has simply automated the process. Instead of getting data from operators, Macra will have first hand information in terms of quality of service and the like.
“In the case of dropped calls, Macra will now be able to penalise the concerned operators. In other words, Cirms will provide a seamless service.”
On possible investments of the extra revenue, Kumbatira said Macra is looking at buying computers for school laboratories, investing in more tele-centres nationwide as well as free wi-fi in universities and colleges to improve students’ research and studies.
Kumbatira said this year, Macra expectes to give government K3.5 billion, up from K800 million in previous years. He said the difference is being used in paying for the procurement of the Cirms machine which in 2010 was pegged at $6 142 608 (about K2.8 billion) but the system upgrade has pushed its cost $13 871 969 (about K6.2 billion).