The Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) says it is banking on the $72.4 million (about K56 billion) Digital Malawi Project to narrow the digital divide, which is uneven distribution of ICT services.
PPPC chief executive officer Patrick Kabambe told journalists in Blantyre on Wednesday that the project comes against a background of information and communications technology (ICT) being globally recognised as an essential tool for promoting competitiveness, job creation, sustainable development and overall poverty reduction.
“The critical importance of ICT has become apparent in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic during which all sectors of the economy have had to adjust their way of conducting business and service delivery,” he said.
The project, which is being implemented by a credit facility from the International Development Association of the World Bank, seeks to improve access to critical ICT infrastructure for the public and private sectors, improve ICT governance, improve access to government services and reduce infrastructure costs.
The project has since signed digital skills and innovation grants with six tech hubs, namely Growth Africa, Dzuka Africa, mHub, Mzuzu Enterprise Hub, TeknoLab and Ntha Foundation to help build digital skills capacity among youths and promote digital entrepreneurship.
Each hub has been allocated a maximum of $250 000 (about K195 million) to benefit 4 500 youths.
The project will also connect 500 public institutions, including the Integrated Financial Management Information System (Ifmis) by June 2022 as well as providing free Wi-Fi zones for the public in some 30 sites in schools, libraries and markets.
The PPPC, through the project, has also signed contracts with national research and education networks through the Malawi Research and Education Network where 61 Internet service providers will be contracted under the National Connectivity Project by May 2021.
Speaking at the event, Ministry of Information Principal Secretary Francis Bisika said government is still engaging operators to further reduce data tariffs.
“We are trying to allow operators to access terminal equipment that would allow more people to use their data with increased volumes,” he said.
Currently, Internet service providers pay annual licence fees, spectrum fees and an annual sales turnover levy of 3.5 percent to Malawi Communications and Regulatory Authority.
Aside from this, Internet has a 10 percent excise tax and 16.5 percent value added tax and a Malawi Bureau of Standard levy of 0.5 percent for every imported ICT equipment.