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AFRIK-IT  February 2000

AFRIK-IT February 2000

Subject:

Opening Internet Access in Malawi

From:

Thandi Mbvundula <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List

Date:

Thu, 24 Feb 2000 15:00:53 +0200

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (81 lines)

Dear Friends and Colleagues

Some of you may be aware that I have spent a good portion of my time over the
last few years contributing to a quest to open up Internet access in Malawi.
After a 3 year battle of lobbying, cajoling and very lengthy discussions with
contributions from a number of people, the Malawi Communications Regulatory
Authority (MACRA) - an independent licensing authority established
according to
the new Telecommunications Act of 1998 - has issued the first Internet Service
Provision (ISP) Licenses in Malawi.

Epsilon and Omega was privileged to receive the first license on Friday 18th
February 2000. Currently 9 more licenses have been issued, including those to
the existing ISP's, MalawiNet and SDNP (the UNDP funded Internet gateway),
which were previously operating without licenses, as there was no previous
classification for Internet Services in the telecommunications tariffs.

The licenses still have one controversial issue to be addressed, apart from
the
annual registration fee of US$ 1,000 MACRA has included a 5% levy on net
annual
operating revenue. This is obviously an issue that is going to undergo heated
debates, both from the ISP's and USAID who have funded the Leland gateway.

The question is what does this mean for Malawi, which previously only had one,
and until more recently two ISP's? This opens the way forward for Malawi to
join the rest of the world with competitive options for Internet access
firstly
through the national gateway installed through the USAID funded Leland
Initiative or should one so wish, using a VSAT's.

As has been my long-term dream Malawi now has an opportunity to facilitate
Internet access throughout the country. Within Epsilon and Omega, I intend to
make further contributions to the effective use of the Internet within the
country and am working towards promoting more content development in
indigenous
tongues on the web in the region.

One obvious constraint is the status of the telecommunications infrastructure
in the country. Malawi Telecommunications Limited (the recently established
telecommunications arm of the previous Malawi Posts and Telecommunications
Corporation) has been upgrading the national telecommunications infrastructure
and are gradually facilitating more reliable digital exchanges throughout the
country. The last year has seen Malawi Telecommunications Limited laying a
fibre-optic backbone throughout the country to which these upgraded exchanges
will be connected. I believe (maybe optimistically) that within the next 3
years, most of the rural exchanges will be in a position to take advantage of
these upgrades. This leaves us with the other major infrastructure
constraint -
power! Unfortunately, Malawi still has a long way to go in terms of providing
reliable, stable power, easily accessible in both the urban and the rural
areas.

There are still a number of further developments in the IT arena, we are
currently working on the establishment of  a National Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) Policy through the Ministry of Information
and a
number of high-level government representatives are contributing to raising
the
level of awareness in the country on the potential contribution that IT can
make to our national development.

I look forward to more exciting developments in this new millenium.

Best Regards

Thandi Mbvundula

Ms Thandi Mbvundula
Managing Partner
Epsilon & Omega
2nd Floor, ADL House
P O Box 31125
Lilongwe 3
Malawi

Tel: +265-784444
Cell: +265-824446
Fax: +265-781231
Email: [log in to unmask] or [log in to unmask]

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