The Tonse Alliance administration has abandoned the telecentres projects in favour of an initiative called Connect a School Programme to enhance access to information and communications technology (ICT) in schools.
Zomba Ntonya member of Parliament Ned Poya (United Democratic Front) asked Minister of Information Gospel Kazako to consider constructing a telecentre at Mayaka Trading Centre and Lambulira in his constituency.
But in response, the minister said the Tonse government analysed the telecentre projects and found them wanting because they were heavily politicised in the previous administration.
Government through the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) in collaboration with Malawi Posts Corporation has been implementing various initiatives aimed at promoting access to ICT services.
Some of the ser v i ces offered in telecentres include typing, Internet browsing, scanning, lamination, binding, photocopying, fax and selling of airtime.
Kazako said telecentres have not helped matters in the country as the nation already lost a generation that could have developed the country through the use of ICT; hence, the new administration cannot afford to take a similar path.
He said: “You cannot politicise issues that will help us obtain the future. There has been politics on where to construct, who to construct telecentres for and who to benefit.
“This time around, we want to do things differently, we will be calling the projects either connect a post office or something related, but our preference is the connect a school initiative.”
The minister emphasised that the connect a school initiative is ideal because it will be able to create an enabling environment where students will learn digital matters, saying children as the future of the country, should adopt ICT at a tender age.
Kazako told the House that government will use the Universal Service Fund to implement the Connect a School Programme, adding Malawi needs to move with speed to go digital to catch up with the rest of the world in transacting using technology.
After the minister’s response, some members of Parliament queried what will become of the tendering process to procure implementation of telecentres nationwide.
However, Kazako described the development as residual of the previous administration which will not be accommodated in the new administration.
Government has been implementing ICT for Sustainable Rural Development Project which seeks to provide ICT services to rural and underserved areas of Malawi.
Experts have argued that performance of some telecentres has been poor and not meeting expected goals. They also observed that one of the factors which affect sustainability of telecentres is lack of meaningful stakeholder engagement and relationship in formulating and running such projects.
ICT Association of Malawi president Bram Fudzulani said in an interview yesterday that they have been advocating for the Connect a School Initiative over the years to equip learners with ICT skills for socio-economic development.
He said: “We hope that the government will not just implement the initiative but engage all stakeholders and lay out its plan for input. But it’s a good initiative”.
Through the Connect a School, Macra aims to build ICT systems and infrastructure in public schools where established computer laboratories will provide a platform for learning and acquisition of advanced knowledge and data among learners and teaching staff