>Date: Wed, 26 Mar 1997 23:12:02 -0200
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>MALAWI: Malawi joins the information superhighway
>Blantyre, March 27, 1997 (Anthony Livuza/AIA) -- The
>Commercial Bank of Malawi, CBM, has become the first
>Malawian commercial bank to computerise its operations.
>For a country slowly battling against poor telephone lines and
>expensive hardware and software, Malawi is getting on-line and
>rolling on the information superhighway. Internet banking from
>home and daily news through E-mail are some of the new
>After instituting the Autobank, the CBM has now gone on-line
>and customers linked to the Internet are able to transact from
>home some limited business, such as updating balance books.
>However, bureaucratic gridlock and a dysfunctional telephone
>system is stalling the expansion of the country's computer
>on-line services months after the baseline technology was laid.
>A plethora of technology, including a data network and an
>international transit facility commissioned in May last year, is
>on line to facilitate communication between business concerns
>through computer networks. But industry sources claim politics
>is stalling the upgrading of the Internet, nine months after the
>launch of a Malaysian sponsored data network.
>At the moment, a low capacity link is apparently available from
>the University of Malawi and is providing live Internet and
>CompuServe access to the outside world. Two private computer
>concerns and the Malawi College of Medicine are reportedly
>providing their own networks to stoke market competition,
>which is eventually expected to bring down the cost of on-line
>South Africa's Council for Industry Research and Internet
>Africa, CSIR, provides Malawi and Southern Africa with their
>own local number links to CompuServe through the CSIR
>world network gateway. The upgrading of the network will
>provide high speed bandwidth and connections to the IBM
>Telecom Networks, a joint venture company between Telekom
>Malaysia and the Malawi Posts and Telecommunications
>Corporation which is running the cellular phone show has a
>major stake in the Internet upgrading project.
>Industry sources indicate that some bureaucrats are unnerved by
>the prospects of uncontrolled grassroots communication and
>want access bound by some regulatory framework. The
>bureaucrats apparently want to tailor Internet content in line
>with acceptable norms.
>Some bureaucrats reportedly also want a cut in the share
>holding pie with protracted negotiations on the issue currently
>hitting a stalemate.
>"We are still looking at the various interests of those with a
>stake in the project including those in the MPTC and the
>Ministry of Information, Broadcasting, Posts and
>Telecommunications," said sources close to the coordination
>unit of the project.
>In a country with one of the lowest per capita income at
>US$200, few people can afford a personal computer while most
>companies use their computers mostly for accounting and word
>processing, rather than external communications.
>Although the market is constrained, almost all Malawi's
>computer-dealer companies have the capacity to provide the
>supporting infrastructure, such as main frames and modems and
>software for Internet and electronic mail.
>Many business concern are still under-equipped for computer
>networks and at the last count, there were less than 200
>subscribers to the Internet and E-mail. The biggest hitch in
>efforts to link Malawi within and outside the country through
>computer networks is the inefficient telephone system which is
>the major component for Internet and E-mail services.
>It is almost an impossible task to get a direct telephone line
>within 24 months in a country where 50 000 people are still
>waiting to be connected to the
>70 000 land and underground land-line telephone system.
>The other major impediment is the high cost of hardware and
>software components, especially for individuals. A modem
>costs not less than US$200, which is a two months wages of
>most people in Malawi.
>Corporate bodies are more fortunate. All Malawian media
>houses can, for instance, now be connected to the Internet and
>E-mail systems under the auspices of the Media Institute of
>Southern Africa's, Misanet.
>Only two media houses have so far subscribed to Misanet, but
>project coordinator Bentry Mdhluli says MISA is working hard
>to connect all subscribing media institutions and individuals by
>the end of the year. (Africa Information Afrique)
>ENDS (673 words)
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)
Private Bag 13386
Tel. +264 61 232975, Fax. 248016
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