Market players have formed of data dropping task force to develop a better understanding of issues surrounding data pricing initiatives, raising hopes of affordable data tariffs.
The task force, which comprises Internet service providers (ISPs) and Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra), was formed in Mangochi on Saturday after Minister of Information Gospel Kazako held a meeting with management of ISPs on data pricing.
Task force chairperson Paulos Nyirenda said in an interview yesterday that they want to create an understanding between government and stakeholders on factors behind high data prices in Malawi.
He said: “There are a number of issues that constitute Internet prices in Malawi among which are that Malawi is a landlocked country which makes charges high when compared to the countries in the ocean front because we need to import such services.
“We thus want to ensure people understand these issues and together find solutions on how we can make our Internet cheaper.”
Nyirenda said the task force also aims to ensure that there is constant progress on previous discussions and milestones achieved in terms of data pricing.
He said: “One of the things that came out from the meeting was the pay as you go rates which mobile companies reduced last year to make data charges cheaper.
“We, however, noted that there is not much progress in terms of tracking how this has progressed that is why we have put up this task force.”
During the meeting, Kazako reiterated the appeal for affordable Internet services in the country, saying there is need to do something to ensure that the services offered are affordable and accessible by majority of the people in the country.
“I expect progress at the end of this meeting because the people of Malawi entrusted us with a responsibility to serve,” he said.
Macra director general Daud Suleman said data reduction is a continuous process and not a one-off activity, adding that as a regulator in the industry, Macra will continue to engage ISPs until Malawi sees meaningful change in the pricing of data.
He said: “This is an opportunity for us to hear from the industry players, it is an opportunity that government as a policy holder will begin to have a finer technical understanding of where we are and where we should be going.
“These conversations will continue and with an agreed tracking mechanism, we should have clear outputs.”
The task force members include TNM plc chief executive officer (CEO) Arnold M’bwana, Airtel Malawi plc managing director Charles Kamoto, SimbaNet Malawi managing director Elias Dziko, Open Connect Limited CEO Sandile Dhlomo, Inq acting managing director Limbika Kanjadza, Globe Internet chief commercial officer Elias Iman, Converged Connect Malawi managing director Brian Longwe and Suleman, who is secretary of the task force.