Technology in Africa
On a regular trawl through the technology publications around the continent, I am pleased to see that Malawi has been mentioned twice in a positive light. Firstly, there is much talk about the re-vamp of the National Information Communication Technology Policy framework, which was first drawn up in 1998.
The Ministry of Information and the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) are looking to review existing legislation to strengthen telecommunications and attract investment.
The aim, as I understand it, is to offer more licencing to operators in the mobile and ISP arena to help combat high mobile and data costs by increased competition. Malawi, currently, has only two mobile phone operators and despite almost 50 ISPs—high entry costs to both services are the norm.
I do hope that the new policy will take into account the existing power challenges facing industry as well as the taxation regime that is applied to data services. In 2015, a report highlighted that Malawians spent an average of $12.00 a month on mobile services, the equivalent of over 50 percent of peoples’ average monthly earnings.
Zambia and Malawi have also just recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) through Macra with regard to the regulation of cross border overlaps of mobile, data and radio services.
The aim is to collaborate on and coordinate to ensure a reduction of interference and improve services to both countries through roaming agreements. This sort of collaboration would be most welcome here, with a country with long and porous borders with Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania.
I know of a stretch of road on the M1 to Lilongwe where one side of the road is Mozambique and the other is Malawi. I have also been told of a weekly market in this area, where most of the vendors speak Portuguese.
Over to cyber-crime, one subject I keep coming back to regularly. And for good reason. A recent technology forum in Namibia (where, by the way, mobile phone penetration is 100 percent) has highlighted mobile phones as the main targets for cybercriminals in Africa.
Bear in mind that mobile usage in the continent has increased to close to one billion subscribers and is anticipated to keep growing. In addition, mobile financial services, such as banking, bill payments and money transfers is on the increase, due to geographical challenges facing users.
As they become more accessible, business, politics and public services will start to be delivered through handsets. Do not be complacent. According to the Cisco 2017 Annual Cyber Security Report, African countries lost at least $2 billion in cyber-attacks in 2016, while Kenya recorded the highest losses of $171 million, Tanzania $85 million and Uganda $35 million. Do you recall a recent attack on Zambian banks?
To reduce such risks the forum urges the establishment of institutes to build capacity, as well as enforce current and new legislation. An important step that can be taken by financial institutes is to improve security awareness through training, both of staff and users which can measurably reduce risk.
There are lessons to be learned from Mauritius, Rwanda and Kenya who were recently assessed on the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) global cyber security index and excelled not only in the continent, but globally amongst the 193 member states of the Union.
Mauritius came first in the continent and sixth globally, a proud accolade for this small island nation. Rwanda and Kenya also scored highly globally, and were ranked higher than South Africa, that we all normally look to, to set the standard in industrial and technological development.
And finally, in South Africa recently, following a protracted strike action by some Huawei employees, the firing of many of them via SMS has been ruled as legal and in compliance with labour laws. Electronic documentation has now been ruled as admissible in court. Rude, maybe, but legal.
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