Higher learning and research institutions in Malawi are set to benefit from the K1.5 billion internet connectivity contract by Malawi Research Education Network (MAREN) and Ubuntu Net Alliance.
The project will see Ubuntu Net Alliance provide 1,200 mbps (megabytes per second) to MAREN on a 10-year cost recovery basis.
The contract agreement is under the Digital Malawi Project, a Malawi government project being funded by the World Bank Group to the tune of K52 billion to extend and improve access to critical ICT infrastructure for the public and private sectors and is being facilitated by the Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC).
PPPC acting CEO Audrey Mwala said Information Communication Technology’s relevance in the education sector cannot be over-emphasised saying it has been a major breakthrough in simplifying the learning process.
“Today people are studying in the comfort of their homes, attending classes and having access to learning materials easily via the internet. ICT in classrooms also has it own benefits such as offering interactive tools that may increase engagement and active learning in return make classroom teaching more dynamic and appealing to students," she said.
She added through the project, universities and research institutions should expect to have improved access to the Internet and research resources among other things. She did however call on UbuntuNet to deliver and make sure they are consistent.
Chief director for e-Government Francis Bisika said the initiative will help to slash four times, the amount of money universities pay Internet Service Providers.
Bisika challenged Maren to move faster in rolling out the distribution of the internet connectivity.
The head of e-Government said apart from universities and research centres there will also be capacity building for campus engineers.
He called on the institutions that will benefit from the contract to make maximum use of it.
According to Maren CEO Officer Solomon Ndidi, they have already worked with seven universities and colleges; Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) Kamuzu College of Nursing, Chancellor College, College of Medicine, the Malawi Polytechnic and Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST) on their campus networks to assess readiness to absorb high-powered bandwidth.
Ubuntu Net Alliance CEO Mathews Mtumbuka explained that their scope is limited to universities and research institutions and will not extend to the public.
He did say the advantage to the public will be the trickle down effect their internet charges will have on the monopoly market as they have fair pricing.
Mtumbuka also made assurances bout their internet connectivity saying in the 11 countries they operate in, they have not had major complaints. He added they will tap their internet from Mozambique making it consistent.
UbuntuNet will provide internet via a newly procured link between Blantyre, Malawi and Maputo, Mozambique.
Professor George Kanyama Phiri of LUANAR disclosed to the signing members that in the few years the university has operated they have grown from a few thousand students to 10,500 saying direct communication is a challenge and this mass communicator will be of great importance.