COVID-19 teaches the citizenry how technology can be next step forward in accessing essential services

By Duncan Mlanjira

COVID-19 pandemic pandemic has taught the citizenry at how technology can be the next step forward in accessing essential services such as education, health, money transfers, online shopping and others in the comfort of the homes.

And as one way to enhance this, Open Connect Limited (OCL) — the country’s biggest supplier of fiber infrastructure — plans to bring door to door fiber internet connectivity as one way of assisting and inspiring young minds and their parents to fully embrace technology.

This is OCL’s strategy at increasing the company’s impact in the fiber communication space and maintain its status as a market leader of this 4th Industrial Revolution.

OCL Chief Executive Officer, Sandile Dhlomo

And it can be effectively done if the majority of the population are able to access affordable internet services available at their doorstep.

“Growth of any economy depends on having basic infrastructure which helps small and medium enterprises build a strong foundation that in turn boosts the country’s economy.

“Internet connectivity access is now a must for young minds and it has to start from home — thus our drive for the door to door fiber connectivity,” said OCL Chief Executive Officer, Sandile Dhlomo.

In response the pandemic, Concern Worldwide in conjunction with Ministry of Health (MoH) developed and piloted an innovative virtual health solution under Innovations for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health initiative that saw the birth of Chipatala Cha Pa Foni (online health service).

The public is being urged not to visit the hospital when having COVID-19 symptoms but to use the Chipatala Cha Pa Foni services for medical care workers to rush and assist them.

The Chipatala Cha Pa Foni also helps expectant mothers to observe good home-based practices after it was observee that the country was experiencing high rate of maternal and child mortality, which was at 675 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and 112 deaths per 1,000 under five births.

The idea for the project was mooted after discovering that underlying causes include limited availability of timely and reliable health information for decision-making, as well as poor access to, and use of, health services. 

It was discovered that expectant women and caregivers of young children delayed seeking care or taking appropriate preventative or curative action.

With this innovation in mind and as fiber communication is the most efficient way of accessing internet services because it is cost effective, has higher speed and requires no antennas, OCL wants to enhance their services.

Access to internet is a must

OCL was born in 2016 when Malawi Telecommunication Limited (MTL) was unbundling its transmission assets and OCL inherited the fiber assets.

Over the years, OCL has tremendously grown with eight office branches across the country and has large footprints in 24 districts.

Amongst other investment partners OCL managed to attract over the years through its professional operations include Press Corporation, Old Mutual and NICO Holdings.

OCL is a wholesale telecommunication service provider and a leading neutral player in the telecommunication industry as it operates the biggest optic fibre infrastructure in Malawi that is supplied to wholesale clients such as banks, mobile service providers and others.

Dhlomo has been in the telecoms and digital industry for 18 years — responsible for group strategy development, mobile and fixed network services marketing, business development and delivery.

He has occupied senior roles in a number of organizations responsible for operations and management of ICT, digital and mobile networks in Sub-Saharan Africa.

He said OCL has over 3,800kms of fiber across the country and wishes to expand their connectivity through the pledged door to door fiber internet services.

Coronavirus alert

OCL, whose Vision Statement is ‘Broadband Within Reach’, offers products and services such as long haul capacity solutions; short haul capacity solutions; access fibre capacity and dark fibre service.

On corporate social responsibility — one way of appreciating doing business in the communities they are plying in — OCL will among other things, provide technology labs for schools as well as providing technological farming and fishing services.

Dhlomo also said they shall provide internships to young graduates not just in technology but in other management skills, accounting, sales which OCL also practises.

Dhlomo has successfully established and managed network consulting groups in Sub-Saharan Africa in the organisations he has worked for in Algeria, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and other countries.

Coronavirus Alert