The Minister of Information and Civic Education, Moses Kunkuyu says Government is focussed at improving the services and livelihoods of the people of Malawi through Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
Kunkuyu said this in Blantyre on Monday during the official opening of a 5-day Television white Spaces (TVWS) training for ICT stakeholders in Malawi.
The physics Department of Chancellor College of the University of Malawi, in partnership with the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has embarked on a project called Malawi White Spaces Project which aims at providing broadband connectivity to rural Malawi at affordable cost using the identified gaps (White Spaces).
The meeting is geared to finding means and ways of how to reach out to rural masses with ICT using the white spaces in channels that are free in a given site or region.
Speaking during the opening ceremony of the training, Kunkuyu said the government of Malawi is committed to promote universal access to ICT services by facilitating a conducive environment for enhanced collaboration between the public and the private sector through PPP arrangements.
"I am glad to inform you that Malawi is one of the five countries in the world which are currently involved in the pilot phase of this project. This demonstrates the strategic focus on ICT development under the wise and dynamic leadership of the current administration.
"The country has placed ICT high on its agenda through such initiatives as the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) and the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP).
"This project will therefore go a long way in supporting these initiatives through the upliftment of the socio-economic status for the rural masses," said Kunkuyu adding that there will be challenges in the implementation that require close cooperation between the industry, leaders and MACRA.
Kunkuyu said the training will facilitate improved broadband connectivity to the rural areas utilizing the identified White Spaces and that the project's initial pilot phase starting September, targets areas which are key to social and economic development like hospitals, schools, the defence forces and the Seismology Unit for earthquake monitoring.
Board Chair for MACRA, Martha Kwataine said any increase in the access to ICTs in the country has a bearing on economic growth and the wellbeing of citizens in the country.
Kwataine therefore urged MACRA to spearhead various initiatives in communication sector so that the sector contributes positively to the overall economic growth.
"If well implemented, this new technology is poised to make a difference in various institutions that cater for social wellbeing of millions of Malawians. It would be great to see as medical doctor at a health centre in rural community accessing diagnosis material at the college of medicine.
"So this step we are taking today should not be taken lightly as it is a step towards economic empowerment of our country hence requires full support from all stakeholders in the country's communication sector," said Kwataine.
Deputy Principal Secretary in the Ministry of information, Harold Perekeni said it is encouraging to hear the emergence of technologies such as the white spaces that are able to bring broadband (fast and reliable) internet connectivity to the general especially key development sectors like public education and health institutions.
Perekeni said the rural communities have been suffering from lack of ICT services because some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) do not invest in rural areas due to their limited economic viability.
"The introduction of the white spaces project therefore brings great optimism that rural and underserved areas will now have access to affordable and reliable broadband connectivity that is poised to close the digital gap in such areas.
"As a Ministry, we are always happy to see communities that were once marginalised being empowered by the use of new communication technologies," said Perekeni.
The White Spaces Project is being supported by other key stakeholders namely Marconi Wireless Lab at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy who have donated equipment for the pilot phase.