This sounds refreshing and a step in the right direction. Our two humble airports, Chileka (International?) in Blantyre and Kamuzu International in Lilongwe, are finally set to go hi-tech with the planned computerisation of immigration check points by March this year.
So, come March, many a traveller and a proud Malawian will be saved from the embarrassment of the manual data capture systems currently prevailing at the country’s border posts, including the two airports. It is like we were/are still in the Stone Age, compared to other equally smaller airports such as Swaziland’s Matsapha Airport which went hi-tech a long time ago.
Next on the schedule of computerisation of entry and exit points will be border posts such as Mwanza, Muloza in Mulanje, Dedza, Mchinji and Songwe in Karonga, according to the Immigration Department.
I must confess that everytime I have passed through our immigration check points, I have always admired the dedication with which our immigration officers manually fill departure and arrival details of passengers in a hard-cover book or, in some cases, plain sheets of paper with lines creatively drawn using a ruler. Please, give them better working tools. I have also always wondered where the data goes, who checks/verifies it and so on and so forth.
It has always been my conclusion that it is this “manual business” that creates avoidable congestion, especially in the arrivals lounge of our not-so-busy airports. Yes, the volume of traffic at our eirports does not warrant the congestion we experience.
What puzzles me is that the Immigration Department and nearly all public offices have always had computers. Sadly, many of the computers have been underutilised and left to lie idle or gathering dust covered under covering cloths (zidoyilo) in offices of some bosses. Usually, these are bosses who, despite having computers on their desks, still write reports in free-hand for their “secretaries” to type and print.
Besides giving a good image to our country as one moving with technological trends, I feel the computerisation of immigration posts will also go a long way in helping check or corner fraudsters i.e. travellers with bogus passports, for example.
It is my sincere hope that the same will be extended to our road traffic management system where, for example, officers will be equipped with scanners to read data on barcodes to check authenticity of some driving licences or other similar documents.
Of course, it is also worth noting that there are some improvements such as digital information display boards. But still, I feel we can do better in this area. In fact, such boards may not necessarily have to be bought by the Department of Civil Aviation or airport managers. They can be put up in partnership with the private sector who would put up their logos or adverts to alternate with info briefs on arrival and departure schedules, for example.
We are in modern times. Many countries have gone electronic with their systems.
Let us move with the times.