Data must fall

Was it just an eargasm?

The sad situation about Malawi is that overall, we have been normalising things that are either wrong or do not make sense at all.

While everyone globally is gravitating into the digital world, we seem to be doing just the contrary – We know that in this modern era, access to modern telecommunication is the basis for e-commerce, modern economics healthcare, trading, e-banking – and everything else technologically savvy.

When people are restricted to accessing trends and are not allowed to have the aptness to leverage prevailing standards and technologies, they are automatically denied an advantage of acquiring a needed knack for competing and fairing effectively.

Our leaders should be reminded that we are living in a very complex and interconnected global system.

Consequently, everything that chooses to operate outside the norms of this ecosystem will eventually be placed on the bottom line of the supply chain.

When the Tonse Government was ushered into power, there was such an exhilarating euphoria. Promises had been made and were still being made, and that continued building such an elation in many Malawians who were eager to experience something new.

At the highest pitch of that expectation, calls were stimulated for government to review some of the corporate predatory practices more especially concerning phone and internet data providers.

These calls were met with assurances from the fresh minister of information Gospel Kazako, who rode on that populist wave with such zeal and renewed covenant, vowing and indicating that government through his ministry would address and resolve the issue once and for all.

‘Postulated facts’

But almost a full year now, we are still at the same place and still asking; was this just an eargasm? Was this just a quick way to satisfy our ears with something that we were irking to hear?

At the moment, looking at the monopoly of all the mobile phone and internet data market share in the country by the two tech giants TNM and Airtel, one is left scratching the head as to why our government seem to be so stuck with no plausible solutions in sight.

Arguably these companies have been treating many Malawians with cruelty, using deliberately gouged rates that were intentionally created to sustain uncontrolled supply and demand shock.

Whilst many Malawians have been crying foul over such unbearable high costs of mobile phone and internet data, these corporations have been posting high earnings that can’t be justified by any means.

Their continuing scheming and preying on the poor majority must not be tolerated. We know they could be stopped because they can only thrive when there is not

enough competition in the country for the services being provided.

It is a postulated fact that in a competitive market, prices and costs will always vary until they settle at a point where the quantity demanded will equal the quantity supplied.

So, by letting only two companies with less or no competition at all, we have created a high demand of the service with limited supply, and in turn we have also allowed a market distortion to follow resulting into predatory behaviour and undesirable business practices.

Now we are left with nothing but to question government and its regulatory body Macra.

We would like to know if they are taking our grievances seriously. We can only take their sincerity by the actions they take.

‘Sustainable governance’

We are expecting nothing but candour. If indeed this government is fully determined to resolve these issues, then they will not let the situation spiral out of control further.

We do not have to remind government that It is within its mandate and prerogative to cap this with a price ceiling.

Most importantly the President and the line minister, in this case information minister, Gospel Kazako have to be intentional on bringing in more competition just like our friends in India did to make sure that the people have choices and adequate and ample quality service delivery.

They simply allowed a proliferation of young telecom operators like Reliance Jio to force a sizable competition against the big telecom companies with offers of very low prices on their 4G plans.

In response to this, the tech giants were forced to not only lower theirs as well, but also started to offer incentives like free handsets and unused data rollover to the next month, with free video streaming services.

What our government should know is that, within a broader context, internet access is an essential foundation for all inter-related activities that are necessary for human development and economic empowerment.

Apart from its role in enhancing the delivery of vital services such as Education, Health Care and other tools, the internet is responsible for creating easy access to information needed for a sustainable governance and increased productivity.

‘It’s about time’

Every government that is serious about its own development and that of its people in a growing competitive global space, has to place internet and technology at the centre of every engine of its systems.

It is important to remember that internet is not only a propellant that is needed to create a vibrant lifeline to an empowered citizenry and the social development of their communities.

It is the very vehicle that will help transport our unique talents, develop and deliver our imaginative experiences and expose us to others while positioning us to compete effectively in a fast-evolving digital world.

I personally have so much faith in President Chakwera and minister Kazako. Both are men whom I hold in high esteem with such an admiration for their incredibly proven track records of raising standards and accomplishments.

However, with all the due respect I am within my rights as a citizen to remind them that time for honeymoon is over!! Malawians are looking for answers.

Mr. President sir, without equitable access to internet, Malawians do not stand a chance in today’s world, to do anything productive and they cannot compete on the global market effectively.

Internet is not a luxury anymore, it is a necessity, and I think the pandemic made this even clearer, from schools, to government work, all the way to private sector, internet took charge of affairs and made some things which appeared impossible, being easily accessible.

Internet is not only vital, it is also, but part of life and living.

Now it is about time that this government has to stop blowing in our ears such escalated rhetoric with nothing to back it up.

We plead with you to begin walking the talk and match the flowery words that are crafted in those beautiful speeches with action, instead of walking back from your promises.
Otherwise, we will still be here to ask if “DATA MUST FALL” was just an eargasm!

All I am saying is that Data, yes Data, must fall, and must fall hard, really hard.

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Tawene Bulukutu
Tawene Bulukutu
2 years ago

To day’s world is digitally manipulated. Everything is hastened and easy through technology in all fields, at anytime, anywhere. Trading, meetings, banking, education etc is done electronically. A country without such facilities will lag behind. Choice of priorities in a country matters. Unfortunately, in Malawi people have chosen politics as a priority, followed by self enrichment. As rightly said Internet, mobile phones, access to modern technology is not a luxury but a necessity. In Malawi to do online banking is a hassle, owning an Internet or computer in your own house is so difficult. To promote such a culture is… Read more »

Charles Phiri
Charles Phiri
2 years ago

Reduce data charges by: 1) Reduce or eliminate the VAT and Excise Duty that is presently levied on internet services. 2) Negotiate with fiber data providers for much lower rates (much much lower than what is currently being charged). 3) Open up the economy with an aim to create value and toward becoming a net export market (so that even the currency forex exchange rate can be managed) 4) Let people also export US dollars and other forex – don’t be one sided where ‘externalization of forex’ is a crime. If you can bring forex into the country then why… Read more »

2 years ago

We are in Malawi my friend and your good advice will fall on deaf ears as usual

2 years ago

Especially for our landlocked situation a cheap access to the global web or internet is essential and a golden opportunity! The possibilities for job creation in doing online services and businesses are thousandfauld! As long our poor economy have the highest cost rate per megabite data, this will not change! Like in other sectors in our small economy, less than a handful competitors determine the market.The consequences are exorbitant cost prices! And Mera is also only a money making machine for government and people involved!

John mvula
John mvula
2 years ago

Nothing in there talks about the taxes the government charges consumers just an article full of emotions without solutions

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