By Gregory Gondwe
The ICT Association of Malawi (ICTAM) has set up five thematic areas within which it wants to spur development in the country as it will support and complement government effort to turn Malawi into utilizing a fully transparent, sustainable and reliable Information Communication Technology.
The body’s chairperson Maxwell Kwame Phiri disclosed this on Friday at the re-launch of the association in Capital City Lilongwe.
ICT Infrastructures, ICT Services, ICT Knowledge, ICT Financing, ICT Policy and regulatory framework are the five areas the body is set to use as its launch pad to make Malawi an ICT revolutionized nation.
“[While we have] these five [as] priority areas we however have three which are supposed to be our FOCUS to turn this country into China or Malaysia, or Japan overnight,” he said pointing out at ICT Infrastructures, ICT Services and ICT Knowledge as the three.
“In between infrastructure and knowledge we have services,” he said.
At the launch, the body settled for a theme called “Priority areas of ICT for Economic Development and empowerment” and Phiri said in a time when human life is increasingly dependent on technologies, it is important to take the time to consider the impact of technology on human life.
“And the importance of ensuring technology isn’t used to limit us, but rather to take us further along a path of opportunity, innovation and freedom for all people,” he said.
He further stated at the launch that as chairperson of the association, is not his task here to explain which infrastructures or services the body should adopt.
“As an association, an umbrella of ICT community we would like to solicit ideas on the above priorities in support of President Bingu Wa Mutharika of making Malawian ICT literate hence to avoid been used as a dumping zone of second hand technology or testing ground,” he said.
He said it is imperative that the development of national Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) infrastructure be considered as one of the national strategic components to make change and improve the determinants in socio-economic performance.
“The national development of ICTs primarily enables the government to be proactive, among other things, to introduce efficiency and transparency in its governance,” he stated.
Thus, in order to hasten capacity building in the domain of ICTs and thereby appropriately exploit the untapped national and international information resources he said a coherent national policy and strategy on ICTs becomes imperative.
Explaining why the body organized a re-launch he said they had to re-set the association goals which required therefore that they re-launch as it the first posture the body took, there were areas that were left out.
The association says currently it intends to design and maintain appropriate systems to capture indigenous knowledge and local content development.
The second goal is to establish information infrastructure comprising broadband communication backbone and access network supporting integrated and multimedia services, and also distributed data warehouses and services to cater the needs of trade, commerce, industry and tourism and enhance the delivery of government services.
The other goal is to sufficiently address ICTs human resource requirements through aggressive ICTs education and training programs in the national education system and increase use of ICTs in educational institutes; Start ICTAM in all colleges and secondary schools.
The association also wants the internet to be connected schools and higher education institutions as this will speed up mass ICTs literacy.
It also desires to establish and strengthen information systems and technology that responds to the need for facilitating agricultural and rural development while establishing and strengthening information systems and technology that support to improve the coverage and quality of health services.
The body will also automate all public service delivery systems, on network platform, to maintain and deliver basic information as well as establishing public information gateways or portals to harness, develop and integrate public information resources and services;
It also intends transform the traditional public library systems into a network of electronic libraries, and establish new ones; exploit the use of ICTs as a lever for entrepreneurial development, especially in small and medium business and well as apply ICTs for the capacity development and empowerment of women.
The association will also develop the capacity of the private sector to deliver products and services required in the ICTs business opportunities as well as attain smooth operations in electronic business and standardize data collection, processing and exchange procedures.
Developing educational standards, practices and guidelines for the deployment and exploitation of ICTs in schools, colleges and universities will be its other goal which will be complemented with encouraging utilization of internet technology as a medium of communication and content development infrastructure.
It will also establish appropriate systems and technologies for the handicapped.
Taking his turn during the launch director of information in the Ministry of Information and technology Chikumbutso Mtumodzi who was sitting in for the minister said it was more encouraging to see women and students involved with Information Communication Technology, both as knowledgeable users and as professionals in the field.
“Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have proven to be a key enabler of socio economic progress and development, enhancing productivity and therefore economic growth, reducing poverty and improving living standards in many ways,” he said.
He said the Malawi government has put in place strategic goals to ensure that Malawi is on the road to have a sound ICT infrastructure and to develop a competitive industrial and service sector.
“We are very lucky in Malawi having a leader [like] Bingu Wa Mutharika who has passion and commitment to promote ICT penetration in Malawi,” he said.
Mtumodzi told the gathering that at recent Namibia SADC head of states summit on 16th August in, Mutharika emphasised the importance of ICT in Africa.
“ICT is increasingly revolutionizing production processes in Malawi, access to markets, and information sources together with social interactions,” he said.
He said ICT also has an impact on government efficiency, fostering transparency and better communication and services with and to citizens.
“I would like to express my sincere appreciation to all ICT professionals, entrepreneurs, and academics in the country for coming together as one community,” he said.
Mtumodzi said this is very important in promoting knowledge and understanding of information technology to development of our country.
“It is very important for the nation to have an active body like ICT association that can help the nation keep up with technology changes,” said Mtumodzi.
The vision of Malawi government he said was to have ICT penetrate the rural areas and that it is important that ICT association has programs like ICT awareness campaign and civic education.
While saluting the association, he nevertheless he pointed out that the biggest challenge the world is facing at the moment is effects of climate change.
“We know ICT on its part contributes to carbon emission in so many ways. And we also know that ICT can effectively be used to combat climate changes like using energy saving technologies,” he said.
Mtumodzi therefore pleaded with the industry not to allow Malawi becoming a dumping ground for inefficient, second hand technologies
“It is important that ICT association also promotes professionalism in the industry among members,” he said.