Malawi has only outshined the DRC positioning itself as the second last both out of 86 countries in the world and among 24 African countries by being among the worst countries in terms of internet availability and affordability, the 2018 Inclusive Internet Index has revealed.
This is according to the latest edition of the Index, now in its second year.
Compiled by The Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by Facebook, the Index provides an international benchmark of internet inclusion across four categories: availability, affordability, relevance and readiness.
The development overshadows Malawi’s trumpeted developments in the ICT which the DPP led government claims to be championing.
Malawi’s verbose Information minister and Government Spokesperson Nicholas Dausi rubbished the Index as mere perception saying the DPP government has made great strides in terms of Malawi’s ICT development.
“We have more people enjoying ICT services in this country than before. This index does not capture the true picture,” he said.
In 2016, Malawi connected to the international fiber optic connectivity and the international gateway, a development that was billed to revolutionize internet penetration and increase cross border trade and investment.
“We want to connect the people. This is a timely and much needed communication infrastructure… because efficient and affordable communication plays a critical role in facilitating international trade and global investments information flow,” former Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati said at the launch in May 2016.
Malawi’s Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) are still underdeveloped and this contributes to the high cost of doing business in the country.
There are about 400,000 internet users in Malawi, which is about 2.2 per cent of the population.
“However, a number of low-income countries, including Nepal, Malawi, and Mozambique, stand out for policies designed to promote internet inclusion among women and girls, specifically digital skills training and STEM education,” the Index noted.
Thanks to the benevolence of the World Bank, over the years the Malawi government had criticized the fact that expensive broad band and internet connectivity constituted a serious barrier to Malawi’s doing business indicators in the agro- based economy which it said could rapidly grow and diversify from full participation in the information society.
The Malawi government has placed ICT as a priority sector both in the short to medium term Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) and Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) II and the long-term Malawi Vision 2020.
With reliable internet connectivity in place, Malawi is the third country after Ghana and Liberia in the sub Saharan Africa region to establish a modern online collateral registry system dubbed – Malawi Business Registration System (MBRS).
This is enabling businesses and individuals to access loans using movable assets unlike the tradition of using fixed assets such as land and buildings.
It is envisaged that MBRS will help prop Malawi`s starting business indicator which has been nose diving over the years.
The 2016 World Bank Doing Business report for Malawi puts the country at 161 out of 181 economies.
“The new online and automated registration system will ensure transparency and accountability, reduce corruption, and seal revenue leakages through online payment,” the World Bank Country office said.