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Make data cheaper

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The youth are most probably the greatest consumers of data in this country (there is no recent research to support it).

Most of these young people are unemployed; the more reason the government has to make data affordable.

There are many ways to go about this; most popular being either offering free data to them or making the data a helluva cheaper.

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Thanks to Facebook, the site offers free patronage. There are limits; one cannot view pictures and videos. Other internet service providers in this country like SkyBand, offer free Wi-Fi hotspots. There are limitations, you are only allowed to log to Facebook, Google and Gmail.

The problem is that the hotspots are not ubiquitous; the youth have to travel to where they are. If you are in Blantyre, that has to be around Shoprite or Delemere House.

The government can offer free targeted data to the youth. There has to be criteria to choose beneficiaries and that is where the problem starts.

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Usually, the political party in power uses targeted subsidies to appease it youthful followers while segregating those that are sympathetic to the opposition.

The other problem with subsidies is that they are communalist within a capitalist economy.Others pay exorbitant prices for the same to cover those that get it for free or reduced prices. Take for example the subsidized fertilizer, some are paying K23, 000 while for those that benefit from the subsidy pay only K5, 000.

Can data be universally cheap in Malawi? It depends.

It depends on government commitment. Data is heavily taxed in Malawi. Apart from VAT data attracts excise tax. From the view point of the taxman, this is understandable. Ours is a Facebook generation and data is a hot product. Tax authorities are naturally attracted to hot products like beer.

Some years back, the government removed duty on assembled computers. A wonderful move to accelerated computer usage and literacy. That was during the PC era. We have advanced into smartphone and data era. It is about time that tax weaver is relocated to where it is relevant.

If you ask ISPs, they will be honest to say that it easy to bring down the cost of data when the demand is huge. How can the demand soar when the data is already expensive before the ISP even marks it up?

Countries like Kenya have deliberate policies to make the internet cheaper and available to many.

Internet is the transport of innovation and development; it can be cheaper; it is a choice!

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