On May 5, Malawi hosted the 2022 Digital Rights and Inclusion Forum (DRIF), a regional forum which is promoting freedom of expression and access to information online. The forum was held at the Bingu International Convention Centre (Bicc) in Lilongwe.
Themed a Digitally Inclusive and Rights Respecting Africa, the forum which was made possible with support from Paradigm Initiative and coordinated by Youth and Society (YAS), attracted representatives from the Ministry of Information and digitilisation, Malawi Regulatory Authority, academia, media, private sector and civil society organisations. Centre for Education and Development (CFED-Malawi) and its subsidiary organization Society on the Internet Lab(Sollab) were represented by the programmes manager Jacqueline Banda.
The day-long forum revealed that Malawi is performing poorly in improving both digital access and inclusion and this is being attributed to poor internet penetration which is currently pegged at around 14%. However, there is hope with the coming in of the Digital Economy Strategy as YAS executive director Charles Kajoloweka puts it:” We commend government for coming up with the digital economy strategy which among others will help in increasing access to internet and mobile services. For instance, government plans to review taxes on internet services which are drivers of internet costs. Our call on government is to ensure this strategy is implemented.”
Minister of Information and digitilisation Gospel Kazako said with the strategy government expects to see between 75 and 80percent of the population connected to the internet. He said it is embarrassing that against a population of over 18million people, Malawi has only 380 000 smartphones.
DRIF also came at a time when the country is recording ugly cases of internet surveillance and crackdown on freedom of expression online. Recently, police have arrested individuals for posts they made in private groups and journalists for doing their job. University of Malawi senior lecturer Jimmy Kainja said Malawi needs the data protect law which he said if effectively implemented will promote free and open expression in online spaces because people will know that their information is secure.
Paradigm Initiative community manager Thobikile Matimbe said it is their wish to see everyone having access to digital technology as well as the internet. For more click HERE.