Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has established the first-of-its-kind, ‘MACRA Open Day’, as a hub where every year it will be engaging its existing and potential licensees as well as consumers to, amongst others, address and discuss any regulatory issues and innovative ideas intended to grow the country’s ICT industry.
The initiative was launched on Monday, August 8 at Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre and the second will be at in Lilongwe at Bingu International Convention Center (BICC) on Wednesday, August 10 and in Mzuzu on Friday, August 12 at Grand Palace Hotel.
Guest honor at the official launch was Minister of Information & Digitalisation, Gospel Kazako, who applauded MACRA Board of Directors and management for coming up with the Open Days – emphasizing that “it is critical that all public institutions such as MACRA are always accountable to the public, consumers and the firms that they serve”.
“Such interface with licensees, consumers and the public solidify the Tonse Alliance Government conviction of servant leadership’ and by extension ‘servant government’ and ‘servant public service’.
“This Government will always be accountable to the people of Malawi and will ensure that Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies are always transparent in their provision of public services to the people.”
He stressed that the MACRA Open Days “have not come by chance or by fluke”, saying they are being conducted “against the realization of the impact that the communications sector has on our economy.
“The impact that communications services have on our economy is clearly envisioned in our strategic economic and development blueprint, the Malawi 2063.
“In this vision, the need and importance of having a robust ICT infrastructure with cross-country coverage of reliable and affordable services fostering technological adoption and digital access is clearly spelled out.”
He quoted the MW2063, which says: ‘We shall promote investment in ICT infrastructure to increase digital access and technological adoption. We shall adopt robust telecommunications systems that are fast, reliable and affordable. We shall continue to embrace technology in a way that promotes development and use of inclusive financial systems’.
“It is no secret, therefore, that ICT is now a basic need and a stepping stone to attain higher milestones in all the sectors of our economy,” he continued. “The realization of the aspiration for this country towards wealth creation, urbanization and industrialization will surely be enabled by the adoption of various ICT solutions.
“I am sure you agree with me that regulating such a critical sector of our economy cannot be left in the hands of Government and MACRA to do as we please. It is therefore important that regulating the Sector is done through interfacing with all players in the sector.
“These Open Days, therefore, provide all of us a golden opportunity to review and analyze how our communications sector is being regulated but also to be informed of the various opportunities that are in this sector.
In his remarks, MACRA Board chairperson, Dr. Stanley Khaila, said the Open Days have been necessitated by “the growing demands of communication services and the mandate conferred on MACRA to ensure that as far as practicable reliable and affordable communication services are made available throughout the country”.
“Over the years, the world has seen a surge in technological advancement with the coming of 5 generation technology, which has brought about a pull-effect in terms of demand for ICT services. Now more than ever people everywhere want to be connected.
“All of us gathered in this room are bound by this need, this duty that we have, we all need to play our role whether as a service providers or a consumer of ICTs to ensure that Malawi is connected.”
He outlined various regulatory initiatives that MACRA has been implementing to ensure communication services for a digitally transformed nation in line with the MW2063, which include:
* Establishment and operationalization of the Malawi Computer Response Team – which is responsible for the coordination of cyber security issues on a national level;
* Establishment and operationalization of the Universal Service Fund – MACRA’s main regulatory tool in providing universal ICT access for all. The Fund finances ICT projects in rural and hard-to-reach areas of the country;
* Development and implementation of 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;
* 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;
* Development of E-waste strategy which is underway to address issues of management involving any electrical and electronic equipment that is discarded or is intended to be discarded or is required to be discarded after use, such as temperature equipment (fridges), televisions, lamps (fluorescent), large equipment (telecommunication equipment) and small IT (mobile phones, computers);
* Identity Register System — to 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.
He also emphasized that MACRA endeavors to uphold and foster the rights of all ICT consumers and thus has been carrying out several consumer initiatives, that include deployment of the MACRA call center 261 which is available on all networks, where consumers can access the Authority directly.
“This is an interactive forum that has been organized in the spirit of transparency, we want to hear from you on how we can continue to grow digitally.
“MACRA believes in engaging in consultation, it is through this process of interfacing with you and getting your views that we arrived at decisions that are both inclusive and a representation of our growing industry,” Khaila said.
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