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Of cyclones and CD writers

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With Teri Sequeira:

Last week, I wrote about the ugliness of social networks – following the brutal murder of Moslems in New Zealand – and the fact that having access to an audience via the internet could have encouraged such an act of brutal terror. To balance this out – I must say how proud many of us were to see an overwhelming response across all social networks by ordinary Malawi residents to act directly and support those in dire need in our Shire Valley, following the natural disaster that hit us and our close neighbours in the last two weeks. The need is still desperate, with disease and hunger looming for at least the next few weeks. Shared widely on Facebook, there are several drop off points organised in Blantyre for donations that will be taken directly to those in need. Please help if you can. Updates on unreachable areas – that even official news media or authorities cannot reach—are provided using Facebook. The point here, is that social networks can be used as a positive tool in today’s world. It is up to us as users.

On an unrelated note, except for the common subject of technology, I read a public notice from the Malawi Revenue Authorty (MRA) this weekend on the introduction of levies on media storage devices. The whole thing is very confusing, and I am sure the MRA will clarify in due course. They are informing the community that they are introducing a levy on what they call – media storage devices – from the middle of next month. This is called the Private Copy Levy. They say this levy will be used to compensate to the rights holders for loss of income due to copyright infringements. It is aimed at promoting the creative industry in Malawi. I guess we will have to find out how exactly they will be promoting creativity. Perhaps we should unbundle this further – as a charge on technology related devices – I think it is important that we understand the implications. For a start, they refer to audio cassettes and vinyl as media storage devices – which are surely defunct technology. Secondly, they talk about import duty in two areas that directly affect all of us as mobile phone users and as businesses. They refer to cellphones with storage and reproducing capabilities. Most modern phones come with built in cameras and access to the internet or a slot for a memory card. (Let’s not forget cloud storage and digital uploads.) They continue to say that – if I understand correctly – exemptions apply if these devices fall under the personal rebate of K300,000. Does that mean that every phone that costs more than K300,000.00 will have an additional charge applied when imported, for example?

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What concerns me even more is the application of this additional charge to personal computers (not exceeding 30kg. Anyone have a computer heavier than 30kg?). So, this charge will apply to laptops, tablets and desktops – most of which have an inbuilt camera and media storage device – that is a hard drive. As well as printers, copiers and scanners (not forgetting USB and mobile drives) all of which are in use daily in almost every business. This will push up the cost of doing business in Malawi. Does our economy need this? We are already pay a tariff for internet services which makes us one of the more expensive countries to do business in in the region.

And, finally, there will be charges raised on cameras, and recordable TV decoders. This impacts on security surveillance as well as the entertainment industry. It will make it more expensive for film makers and musicians to record and develop their creative careers, for example.

Space does not allow me to comment further, but this is worrying news for anyone who uses technology in the country. I would welcome any communication from the MRA and COSOMA to enable me to relay clarity to readers. I would also welcome comments from those in the creative industry on how these additional charges would impact on them.

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Teri Sequeira is Managing Director of SyncIT Solutions Ltd. He can be reached on terisequeira@ hotmail.com

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