MACRA finalizing construction of digital forensic lab for Police to enhance fight against cybercrimes 

The process of building a digital forensic laboratory for Malawi Police Services (MOS) is being finalised to enhance the fight against cybercrimes in the country.

This was disclosed by MACRA chairperson, Dr. Stanley Khaila on Thursday at Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel at the official opening of the first of its kind regional public relations (PR) conference, which has been co-organised by MACRA and Public Relations Society of Malawi (PRSM) — under the theme ‘Policing in digital era.’

MACRA Director General Daud Suleman

Khaila also said MACRA has partnered the MPS on several issues — “most notable is the mobile fraud task force, where various key stakeholders have come together to harmonize our efforts in the fight against the vice that is mobile fraud”.

The task is made up of the Reserve Bank of Malawi, Airtel, TNM, MACRA, MPS, Prison Services, and the National Registration Bureau and Khaila said: “We believe that our combined efforts are in the right direction in dealing with mobile money fraudsters and making our digital space safe for all.”

This is on top of the deployment of a identity SIM card and phone register system in Malawi, which will assist in tracking down stolen phones and also ensuring that only original phones are able to be registered for use on the mobile and telephone networks.

Inspector General Merlyne Yolamu poses with female police PROs

There is also the establishment and operationalization of the Malawi Computer Response Team which is responsible for the coordination of cyber security issues on a national level.

Thus Khaila emphasized that the conference, also to be held in the Central and Northern regions, is important workshop for the PR officers — “necessitated by the growing demands that the digital era has exerted over the enforcement of our various mandates, especially the public relation function,,hence our theme ‘policing in the digital era’”.

“The communication landscape has changed in the digital age, we moved from a world where we used to get our news and information on television, radio, and print productions to everyone everywhere having access to information and news all the time.

“This is the ‘breaking news era’ where anyone with a phone and access to the internet can share anything with the world at any given time. The coming of the 5th generation technologies has brought forth a pull effect in terms of demand for ICT services in the world.”

The chairperson further said now more than ever people everywhere want to be connected, saying: “Accessibility to information and communication has had a positive impact on the social and financial level of any given county, driving the digital economy and contributing towards its GDP growth.

“However, this 24-hour news cycle poses a unique challenge to us as institutions especially the public relations function. PROs now more than ever have to be the voice of reason and credibility in a world of misinformation and disinformation.”

He took cognizance that public relations officers are “indeed at the heart of every organization — as the link between the effective management of an organization and its strategic public, without which our voice as an institution is lost”.

“As an Authority, we highly value the important duties the PR functionality plays, which is why we saw it fit to hold this workshop where the PRSM will train you on how to provide effective communication in the digital era.”

On March 15, during the commemoration of World Consumer Consumer Rights Day MACRA had announced the establishment of the digital forensic laboratory for the MPS in response to the proliferation in the cases of cybercrime, especially mobile money fraud — brought about through technological advancement.

The proliferation in the cases of mobile money fraud was came bout during the CoVID-19 pandemic which saw an increase in the usage of ICT services.

At the official opening of the conference, MACRA Director General, Daud Suleman disclosed that almost K120 million is lost monthly due to mobile money fraud, saying if not nipped in the bud, threatens to create a big gap in the digital penetration.

Also established by MACRA is the Universal Service Fund, which is the regulator’s main tool in providing universal ICT access for all through financing ICT projects in rural and hard-to-reach areas of the country.

MACRA has also in operational, the National Addressing System — aimed at assigning and allocating physical addresses to all residents in the country through property and house numbering and street naming.

There is the Type Approval Regulations that provide guidelines on the standards of ICT equipment for use in Malawi, whose process ensures that consumers of ICT services are protected against hazardous products and goods.

All these are in line with the country’s development blueprint, the MW2063 to ensure advanced communication services for a digitally transformed nation.

Meanwhile, MACRA granted MPS a licence to roll out a special Police FM as a proactive policing where the Service wants to create a well-informed public that plays an active role in its security.

Present at the opening of the conference was Inspector General of Police, Merlyne Yolamu, who announced that the Police FM is now on air but only rolled-out in Mzuzu and surrounding areas.

The frequency that MPS were given — 106.7 is only for that part and she appealed to MARCA Director General that they are still looking up to his office to consider issuing other frequencies to cover the remaining parts of the country.

“After analyzing how powerful radio is as a tool of communication, we thought it wise that we establish our own,” she said, while Suleman assured the IG that they are working at finding the frequency space, saying they granted a national licence.

The IG applauded “for the good job” it is doing as a regulator of the communications industry, saying: “My officers have attended several training workshops in the past months that you organized and the reports I get show that you are an institution that is serious at what it is doing.

“I wish you well as you do your best in serving Malawians who are the ultimate beneficiaries of all our services. We need professional police PROs who are knowledgeable on matters they communicate to the public.

“You cannot positively contribute to the building of our good image if you lack the necessary skills, knowledge and professionalism,” she said.

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