By Duncan Mlanjira
Malawi cannot effectively forge ahead with its development agenda without putting up an appropriate framework of information, communication and technology (ICT) to support and accelerate various national and sector initiatives and interventions at all levels of society.
This was said by the Minister of Information, Communication and Technology, Mark Botomani during the official opening of the successful two-day ICT EXPO conference held in Lilongwe at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) last month.
The Minister said Government has adopted the national ICT Policy whose mission is “to facilitate an efficient, effective, and sustainable utilization, exploitation, and development of ICTs in all sectors of the economy in order to attain an information-rich and knowledge-based society and economy”.
“This is why the Government of Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika has created an enabling environment by establishing a fully-fledged Ministry of ICT with the mandate of providing policy direction and guidance in the production and dissemination of public information; coordinate and manage ICT development and services.
“Given the benefits and opportunities offered by ICT, it is acknowledged that Malawi cannot effectively forge ahead with its development agenda without putting up an appropriate framework of ICT to support and accelerate various national and sector initiatives and interventions at all levels of society,” Botomani said.
He added that through the Malawi Growth Development Strategy (MGDS III), the Government has identified key strategies for achieving ICT and they include: creation of a conducive environment to attract investment in ICT infrastructure and services; Intensifying ICT research education and training in all sectors; and developing capacity to generate reliable and accurate local content among others.
“The Government will also continue with its programmes of narrowing the digital gap through among others the e-government programme which has the objective of modernising and improving efficiency of public services and the e-Legislation initiative which aims to establish a responsive ICT legal framework to facilitate competition, adopt and implement relevant regulatory frameworks including policies and legislations that can curb issues such as cyber-crime, intrusion and loss of privacy.”
He also said ICT Policy has the provision of tax waiver of import on computers and accessories to encourage the use of ICT.
Present at the opening was the British High Commissioner Holly Tett, Secretary for ICT Esmie Kainja, Director of e-Govt Francis Bisika among other key speakers.
“On behalf of the Malawi Government and on my own behalf, I would like to thank the ICT Association of Malawi (ICTAM) and its leadership for organizing this Indaba which has brought together a diverse range of ICT Services and products providers under the theme ‘ICT as a catalyst for economic growth’.
“The aim of this indaba is to recognize the success and vitality of the Malawian ICT sector in order to acknowledge, encourage and celebrate excellence amongst local institutions by giving them the opportunity to gain valuable exposure and well deserved recognition for their national and global expansion ambitions.
“Again the indaba will assist local institutions to market Malawi as an investment destination for the rest of the world in the following Tech Sectors: Telecoms, Cyber Security, Cloud Solutions, Internet of Things, e-Commerce & Apps, Fintech & Banking, E-Health, Agriculture, Education and E-government.”
He also said much as ICT is changing people’s lives for the better, there are some challenges that have to be addressed if the country is to achieve the potential benefits of a Knowledge Society in Malawi and Africa as a whole.
“These include increasing the currently low supply of students and graduates with ICT skills. The onus is on you participants to take advantage of this forum and learn more about the current level of research and innovation capacity by actively engaging with the stakeholders who are participating at this event.
“You may also want to know that the national infrastructure and communication platform which is integral in transforming Malawi is still inadequate.
“It is therefore high time that we develop an ICT research roadmap to facilitate the adaptation and creation of technologies co-designed around Malawi’s needs,” Botomani said.
ICTAM president Bram Fudzulani said the The EXPO was a complete success as it was overwhelmingly participated at all levels.
“I was personally humbled by the overwhelming level of participation and engagement from both government, private sector, academia as well as the civil society community.
“I would like to thank all who participated, all the exhibitors and most importantly the sponsors,” Fudzulani said.
Some of the companies that made financial contributions towards the ICT EXPO included Sky Band, OCL, Huawei, Nico Technologies, MTL, Open Connect, Taurus Advertising, Godka Technologies and Nation Publications.
The exhibiting companies and institutions included Skyband, National Bank of Malawi, Nation Publications, MTL, Godka Technologies, SPARC Systems, Malawi University of Science and Technology, Huawei, Open Access Limited, Nico Technologies, IC-Tech Africa, Agricultural Commodity Exchange (ACE), Center for Youth and Development, Globe Internet, Baobab Health, Ministry of Health Kuunika Project, ICT Ministry and Taurus Advertising.