By Yamikani Yapuwa:
Government, through Ministry of Information, has rolled out the Public Free Wi-Fi Initiative which will see some selected public facilities like markets and institutions such as schools and hospitals in the country having access to free internet connectivity.
Speaking during the launch on Friday at Blantyre Secondary School (BSS), Minister of Information, Gospel Kazako, noted that as technology advances, others may be left behind due to lack of access to internet connectivity, hence the need to ensure that appropriate safety nets are provided to take everyone on board as the nation evolves digitally.
“Through this initiative, our two international airports, Kamuzu International and Chileka will also be provided with free Wi-Fi so that they are on the same level with those around the world.
“Globalisation demands the need to have an outward thinking on what others in various countries are doing as opposed to being limited to your own situation and conditions,” said Kazako.
The minister said connecting hospitals and schools to free Wi-Fi under the initiative must be done with the sense of urgency as through proper connectivity, the health personnel can interact with other professionals and experts in different countries to seek guidance and knowledge on critical medical conditions without necessarily meeting physically.
He said effective and efficient connectivity would also facilitate transfer of medical records from one hospital to another on line in times of referrals.
Kazako added it was high time schools and libraries were connected to reliable internet, noting that this has an obvious result of allowing learners to access vast information.
“The world is more open and connected now and there must be no resistance to the adoption of information and communication technology (ICT) for whatever reason.
“ICT is now a necessity and not an option at every level and today, even businesses that fail to adapt to new technologies are dying naturally.
“The growth of ICT has even changed how products are marketed and purchased. The provision of Wi-Fi in market places will enable our traders to appreciate trending market prices, place their orders online, explore potential export markets and even advertise their products,” explained the minister.
Kazako, however, advised people in the country on the need to immediately begin to think and brainstorm on how to make the free Wi-Fi initiative sustainable.
“The question that we must ask ourselves is how ready are we as a country to sustain this initiative after the World Bank financial support towards this initiative comes to an end?” said Kazako.
Chief Executive Officer for Public-Private-Partnership Commission, Patrick Kabambe, said the commission has partnered with TNM to provide Free Wi-Fi in selected places throughout the country.
“This is just the beginning. We are still discussing with partners to extend this programme to other sites,” he said.
“We believe that by demonstrating the positive benefits now, other investors can also be attracted. We are open to talk to more people so that this can be expanded,” he said.
Kabambe said the initiative will provide beneficiaries like students, business people and farmers among others across the country, with the digital tools which will enable them carry out research easily.
TNM’s Chief Finance Officer, Peter Kadzitche, said the company is the service provider behind the whole project in terms of technicalities of ensuring that Wi-Fi is always accessible.
“Our role in the initiative is to ensure that we provide a seamless connectivity that works and benefits the people using the service,” added Kadzitche while pledging to continue supporting the education sector.
During the launch, TNM also donated five computers valued at K4 million to Blantyre Secondary School to help students access the material they need as they pursue their education.