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What are Malawians doing on the internet?

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Well, searching for sexual content – would be the answer. Or at least a report prepared by a Kenyan BBC Consultant Mark Kaigwa seems to conclude that way.

A presentation by Kaigwa made in March 2022 on ‘Digital Transformation’ listed sex as one of the things Malawians are using their internet bundles for.

In what he dubbed Malawians’ 5 Ss of the internet, namely; sex, search, sport, social and stories’, he suggested that Malawians largely use the internet to view pornographic content.

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MADE A PRESENTATION ON MALAWIANS’
INTERNET USE—Kaigwa

Ironically, interviews we conducted with some Malawians show that they are mainly on the internet for leisure.

Brino Kalemba, a 27-year-old student from the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences (Mubas) said he mainly spends time on WhatsApp and YouTube watching wrestling, his favourite sport.

 

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SAYS MAINLY WATCHES WRESTLING
ONLINE—Kalemba

Another student from Mubas, Christopher Mponda, 23, said he usually uses the internet for his school assignments.

“However, when I am home, I mainly use the internet to download music and spend time on WhatsApp,” Mponda said.

A woman above 30, Alinafe Kalima, told us that she uses her internet bundles strictly on Facebook and WhatsApp, to stay connected with her friends, family and colleagues.

“The internet helps me communicate with my workmates, friends and families. I am not social-media savvy, but when I buy an internet bundle, it is only to talk to people. I also use it to conduct my businesses on a day-to-day basis,” she said.

However, a study by the Malawi Internet Exchange (Mix) shows that in 2021, betting websites were the most used platforms on the internet by Malawians, seconded by Google.

In a written response, Mix chairperson, Paulos Nyirenda, notes that the internet has positively impacted Malawians on how they conduct their businesses.

“I am aware that the internet has made significant impact on the way Malawians do business, the way that they now live, the way that they play and especially the way that they get informed or educated.

“However, we do not make such judgments at the Malawi Internet Exchange. The purpose of the Mix is to make sure that local traffic in Malawi stays local within the boundaries of Malawi; we do not study how people are using the internet or for what,” Nyirenda said.

But as it is, internet penetration in Malawi proves to be a hill being slowly hiked.

A report available on Data Reportal website indicates that there were about four million internet users in Malawi as of January 2022.

The report indicates that Malawi’s internet penetration rate stood at about 22 percent of the total population at the start of 2022.

Meanwhile, government is yet to fully implement some components from the Digital Malawi Project, which, among other things, looks at digital connectivity which will improve information and communications technology.

For a country with only 22 percent of its population with access to the internet, the delay is seen as a huge setback.

Take into perspective the case of Gabadinho Mhango, whose wonder goal at the Africa Cup of Nations left football fanatics terrifically mesmerised.

He lost the goal of the year award which had voting through the internet as part of the criteria to win.

The odds were already against the Flames’ striker, as he relied on a group of the four million Malawians with access to the internet, against winner of the award Pape Sakho from Senegal, a country which already had seven million people with access to the internet as of January 2021, according to Data Reportal Website.

In 2008, Malawi missed out on an opportunity to win Big Brother Africa through Hazel Warren, who tied with Ricardo Venancio of Angola.

Warren eventually lost due to percentage of votes online – another indication that the small number of Malawians connected to the internet is a setback.

Records made by Napoleon Cat, a website that keeps track of social media statistics, show that as of February 2022, there were 731,500 Facebook users in Malawi – accounting for 3.4 percent of the population.

The majority of the users, according to the records, were men, at 63.8 percent of the users – while people aged between 18 and 24 were the largest user group with 256,900 of the 731,500.

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