The country’s Internet connectivity charges are set to drop markedly thanks to the construction of a fibre optic network by SimbaNet through the $20 million (K14 billion) World Bank-funded connectivity project.
Just like other countries in Africa, Malawi has an underdeveloped communications infrastructure characterised by high charges, low penetration rates and poor service provision, contributing to high cost of doing business, limited innovation and poor information flow.
The project is component within a World Bank’s Regional Communications Infrastructure Project (RCIP), which being implemented in 25 African countries to improve quality, availability and affordability of broadband, especially wholesale Internet.
In Malawi, the fibre optic infrastructure is being constructed by SimbaNet, a Tanzania-based company, which won a contract two years ago and the implementing agency is the Department of E-Government in the Ministry of Information, Communications Technology and Civic Education.
E-Government deputy director Charles Mopiwa, in an interview, said the project seeks to ease government electronic communication through fibre optic network infrastructure.
“The department, through the project, has managed to connect Capital Hill [in Lilongwe], government offices in Lilongwe, Mchinji, Salima, Nkhotakota, Nkhata Bay, Mzuzu, Rumphi and Karonga.
“These offices will now be able to access fast and robust Internet and also able to access e-government systems such as Ifmis [Integrated Financial Management Information System], Hrmis [Human Resource Management Information System], among others, directly to their headquarters servers,” he said.
Mopiwa said the offices in districts will also be able to save money which was going to other Internet service providers as well as enhance e-mails and data transfer; hence, removing the cost of transport that was being incurred before the implementation of the project.
SimbaNet was awarded contract after a thorough scrutiny by the Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC), a government agency that promotes public private partnerships.
In an earlier interview, PPPC chief executive officer Jimmy Lipunga said the project will ensure that Internet prices drop by about 75 percent to as low as $200 (about K138 400) per megabyte per second (Mbps) per month from about $600 (about K415 200) per Mbps per month.
Local ICT expert Maxwell Phiri, commenting on the project, said it is a game changer as it will not only enhance Internet connectivity, but also boost businesses.
“This [the project] will help to accelerate research in the education sector, increase access to the digital world as well as help in the cheap and fast flow of communication in businesses,” he said.
RCIP, which started in 2008, aims to remove bottlenecks to international connectivity in Malawi. n