THE International Telecommunications Union (ITU) says it will assist Malawi develop the ICT industry, especially in the rural areas, to help spread socio-economic development across the country.
A delegation from Malawi, headed by Ministry of Information Principal Secretary James Kalirangwe, met with ITU Secretary General, Hamadoun Toure on the sidelines of the World Radio Communication Conference, 2012 (WRC – 12) in Geneva, Switzerland, last week.
A statement availed to Business Times after the meeting says Toure commended Malawi for the initiative of establishing telecentres in several rural areas of the country. Toure pledged ITU's continued support to such initiatives.
He said the Malawi government and ITU should work together to identify resources which can be used to establish more telecentres throughout the country to ensure accessible and affordable ICT services within walking distance for most people.
"The millennium Development Goals (MDG's) cannot be attained if people do not have access to ICT enabled applications like e-education, e-agricullture and e-health. Malawi should ensure that it puts in place enabling policy, legal and regulatory framework to ensure provision of affordable and accessible ICT services to its citizens, especially those in the rural areas," Toure said.
He called upon the private sector in Malawi to assist government in developing the ICT sector, especially in the rural areas.
"It is pleasing to note that the Malawi government has put in place various measures to make the ICT industry attractive for investment for the benefit of the people of Malawi," Toure said.
Kalirangwe expressed gratitude to ITU for its continued support to Africa, the SADC region, and Malawi in particular, in the areas of ICT development to ensure that citizens of these countries have accessible and affordable ICT services.
He said that Malawi has benefitted from the ITU under the ITU/Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority/Malawi Postal Corporation telecentres project.
"Malawi has benefited greatly from ITU disaster relief through ITU satellite phones provided for emergency communication services in the flood hit districts for the past two years and the assistance has gone a long way in facilitating easier access to the affected people and providing for their immediate needs," Kalirangwe said.
He said the establishment of ITU telecentres in 12 districts of the country is a clear indication of ITU's commitment to bridging the digital divide in most developing countries of the world, which tallies with the theme of Infrastructure development under the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy.
"The majority of Malawians (about 80%) live in the rural areas where access to basic ICT services is not readily available therefore the implementation of the ITU/MACRA/MPC telecentre project has brought great enthusiasm and uptake of ICT services to the extent that the Government of Malawi is embarking on a 'Connect a Constituency' project to make sure that there is at least one Multipurpose Community Telecentre (MCT) in each constituency," said Kalirangwe.