* The agreement will enable Malawi access high-speed optical fibre-based network
* Thereby ensuring internet that is affordable, available, fast and reliable across the country
By Peter Kanjere, ESCOM PRO
Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM) Limited has signed a commercial agreement with Tanzania Telecommunications Company Limited (TTCL) in complementing Malawi Government’s efforts of reducing the cost of data.
This follows the signing of a Diplomatic Data Corridor Agreement and a government-to-government memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Malawi and Zambia — a landmark feat in achieving regional integration in e-processes including cyber security.
The agreement with the Tanzanian company will enable Malawi access high-speed optical fibre-based network, thereby ensuring internet that is affordable, available, fast and reliable across the country.
At the signing ceremony of the Integration of the Tanzania National ICT Broadband Backbone with Malawi National Fibre Backbone Infrastructure in Zanzibar on Friday, ESCOM Chief Executive Officer Kamkwamba Kumwenda said the “project is part of Malawi government’s ambitious plan not only to interconnect with Tanzania and neighbouring countries with optic fibre infrastructure but also extend fibre into all other areas”.
“This is to enable greater accessibility to high-speed internet that is reliable and affordable to all Malawians, to propel development.
“Tanzania is in a critical position to make the region make strides in connectivity as it has several undersea cables landing on its shores on one hand, and has quite a number of landlocked neighbouring countries on the other hand.
“Tanzania stands to facilitate the digitalisation of the region. Hence Malawi initiated the collaboration in the ICT sector in general and specifically in the Diplomatic Data Corridor.”
The government is implementing the backbone project through ESCOM, which operates the National Data Centre while TTCL is the implementing agency for Tanzania.
The objective of the project is to connect all major sectors of the economy such as the government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), essential service providers, including health establishments, schools and water treatment plants, corporate companies, SMEs,and households in the country to the National Fibre Backbone.
The Fibre Backbone also interconnects with all neighboring countries and the project is in line with the MW2063 national vision, which seeks to digitize all sectors of the country to spur economic development for Malawi to realise its dream of becoming an inclusively wealthy and self-reliant nation.
The agreement will create a Diplomatic Data Corridor through Tanzania to help make internet in Malawi more affordable.
Minister of Information & Digitalisation, Moses Kunkuyu led Malawi’s delegation comprising the Government and ESCOM officials whereas MP Nape Nnauye, Tanzania’s Minister of Information Communication & Information Technology, led the hosts’ delegation.
At the signing ceremony of the agreement with Zambia in Lilongwe last month, its Minister of Technology & Science, Felix Mutati appealed to countries in Africa to embrace Malawi’s ‘Data Must Fall’ mantra for smooth data flow that would transform lives of people across the continent.
Mutati said one of the barriers to development journey of African countries is the cost of internet, which is drawing the countries back, saying: “Africa must together say data prices must fall; thanks to the wisdom of Malawi.
“I will be pressing Zambia that from now on, the cost of data must fall. Malawi has given Africa the mantra so let us adopt it.”
Campaigners in Malawi embarked on the Data Must Fall campaign in 2020 in order to make internet cost affordable and accessible to the majority of Malawians by generating a policy that would safeguard affordable data bundles.
Malawians have been protesting against service providers for overpricing their data bundles and according to Mutati, reducing data costs will enable the continent to trigger opportunities and possibilities, particularly amongst the youth who are eager to access the internet for enterprise and connectivity but high cost of data is stopping them.
“Let us make money, not around the cost of data but around the transactions that are enabled by data; that is where the money is, not in the cost of transportation.
“The money is at the end when the goods are delivered. That is where we must make money,” he said.
In Africa, the high cost of data is attributed to factors such as unavailability of infrastructure and high taxation.—Additional reporting by Maravi Express