The Covid-19 pandemic has increased Internet traffic, as many activities have moved online, with global internet bandwidth rising by 35 percent in 2020, published United Nations figures have shown.
As compared to the previous year, there was a 26 percent rise.
In a statement, the United Nations Commission of Trade and Development (Unctad) said with the increasing number of mobile devices and Internet-connected devices, data traffic by mobile broadband is expected to account for almost a third of the total data volume in 2026.
Unctad’s director of technology and logistics Shamika Sirimanne observed in the statement that as the digital economy grows, a data-related divide is compounding the digital divide.
“But the data-driven digital economy is characterised by large imbalances and divides,” said Sirimane.
According to Unctad, only 20 percent of people in least developed countries (LDCs) use the Internet, and when they do, it’s typically at relatively low download speeds and with a relatively high price tag attached, the report says.
Also, the average mobile broadband speed is about three times higher in developed countries than in LDCs.
And while up to eight out of 10 Internet users shop online in several developed countries, only less than one out of 10 do so in many LDCs.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is one of the enablers in the Malawi 2063 (MW2063).
National Planning Commission director general Thomas Munthali observed that reducing the sector specific taxes can lead to increases in penetration and ICT usage.
He said: “The challenges are clearly defined along with how to address them in the Digital Economy Strategy. For instance, the Malawi Communications and Regulatory Authority [Macra] levies 3.5 percent tax on ICT provider turnover—the cost is eventually borne by the user—this is a position I know Macra can contest for many reasons.
“Matter of fact, usage taxes and levies account for approximately 26 percent of the purchase price of mobile data. Revisiting the 10 percent excise tax on data and text package purchases for a pilot period of say two years, could support the digitisation and electronic transactions adoption.”
He said while evidence shows that taxes in the ICT sector are usually passed onto the consumer, a reduction of such taxes by one percent increases uptake of ICT services three-fold since the cost contributes to about 30 percent of low uptake.
The Digital Economy Strategy, which is in the pipeline of Cabinet approvals, defines the specific fiscal, monetary, and infrastructure-related interventions on each of these critical areas, that will be game changers if implemented.