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Malawi loses $222 million to low ICT access

Charles Kajoloweka

Gospel Kazako

Malawi is annually losing about $189 million and an estimated $33 million of potential input to gross domestic product (GDP) and revenue taxes, respectively, due to low access to the internet and mobile services, a World Bank report shows.

In its recent edition of the Malawi Economic Monitor report, the Bretton Woods’ institution challenges the government to improve the enabling environment for the digital economy to grow and thrive in Malawi which would eventually contribute towards national development.

“Studies estimate that an additional 10 percent increase in mobile broadband penetration in Malawi could lead to $189 million in additional GDP and $33 million in additional tax revenues per year. Connectivity remains unpredictable and expensive for many,” the report reads.

The report also highlights lack of digital skills which, according to the World Bank, have prevented Malawi from realising the full potential of its digital infrastructure.

A consortium of Youth and Society (Yas), Oxfam and Development Communication Trust (DCT) on Tuesday corroborated findings of the report, saying low energy penetration is also contributing to inaccessibility of information and Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) services, additional to their high costs.

Speaking when he presented results of a study dubbed ‘assessing legal barriers to Access to Information and Freedom of Expression in Malawi’, Yas Executive Director Charles Kajoloweka decried the monopolisation of the telecommunication sector, saying it is hindering Malawians from accessing information.

Asked on what government is doing to ensure easy and even access to ICT services so that it leverages on the potential income, Minister of Information and Digitisation Gospel Kazako said Wednesday that government is investing in creating a digital economy.

“It is very important for us to make huge investments and that’s what we are doing. our priority is to ensure that as many people as possible migrate to digital transactions. With the lowering of data prices like you have seen, we need to have more fingers touching gadgets. There are so many things coming that we will be announcing,” Kazako said.

Government data show that only 12.7 percent of the country’s population has access to electricity; with urban penetration of 25 percent compared to a mere one percent in rural households.

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