The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) has said the rolling out of the Television White Spaces (TVWS) project, currently in its pilot phase, will take Internet to the rural masses.
The TVWS project is being implemented by Macra in collaboration with the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College physics department, with an aim of providing broadband connectivity to rural Malawi at an affordable cost, using the identified gaps in the TV UHF band.
The project is in response to the call for strategic research in the ICT sector as part of Macra’s mandate to enhance the provision of affordable and accessible ICT services to Malawians especially those in the rural and under-served areas.
The project is a sign of government’s commitment to promote universal access to ICT services by creating an environment that is conducive for joint ventures under the Public Private Partnerships (PPPs).
Other countries that are also doing a similar pilot project include United States of America, United Kingdom, South Africa and Kenya.
In Malawi, the project is being piloted at St Mary’s Secondary School, Malawi Defence Force (MDF) Airwing, Pirimiti Rural Hospital and the Geological Survey Department.
Macra board chairperson Martha Kwataine said the regulator will continue to spearhead various research and development initiatives in the communications sector to contribute positively to economic growth.
“It is, therefore, encouraging to note that the television whitespaces project although only in its pilot phase, is already making a difference in the selected areas of health, education, survey and national security,” she said.
Macra director of communications Lloyd Momba said the project concept was developed in October 2012 and after successful presentation of the concept for funding, preparatory activities started in January 2013.
He said the project team through consultations with stakeholders has identified key areas of focus namely; applications and services, TVWS database and spectrum management, performance testing and monitoring.
“Other key focus of areas for the pilot include, operations, engineering and development, products, economics, marketing and business development and legal and regulatory framework. Macra has also focused on enhancing the industry–academia working relationship, hence the involvement of the University of Malawi as part of the key partners in the TVWS research,” said Momba.
Head teacher for St Mary’s Secondary School, Mary Chimalizeni, said in the pilot phase, students at the school will be able to search information they need for their education.
She said the project is expected to improve education standards at the school, adding that students can even read books through Internet.
Chancellor College Principal Professor Chris Kamlongera said the project will change the outlook of the country, observing that the college’s physics department will continue to find ways on how to advance rural connectivity.—Mana