Seven higher learning institutions in Malawi are set to benefit from the newly approved Campus WI-FI initiative as the Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) has entered into an agreement with National Connectivity to Higher Education, Open Connect and other players.
The institutions are Malawi University of Science and Technology, the Polytechnic, Mzuzu University, Chancellor College, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and National Resources College of Medicine and Kamuzu College of Nursing.
PPPC Acting CEO Audrey Mwala speaking at the signing ceremony in Blantyre said the project which is worth USD72 million and is being bankrolled by the World Bank will come to fruition in March 2021.
In January PPPC rolled out K1.5 billion internet connectivity contract with Malawi Research Education Network (MAREN) and Ubuntu Net Alliance to provide 1,200 mbps (megabytes per second) to MAREN on a 10-year cost recovery basis.
Mwala said access to information is a problem and a stumbling block for students.
“This project that will be history, will provide WI-FI connectivity which will allow 24-hour access to Internet in the comfort of their rooms.”
“The majority on public universities are coming from backgrounds where they cannot afford Internet access at the market rate. This will be affordable as it will be free access to the students, the universities will be paying, hinting on the fact that going forward, the project will not limit to students but they can log in when they travel to other universities using the same log-ins in Malawi,” Mwala explained.
She further hoped that the campus WI-FI will enhance performance of university students and accelerate research which is important in rating of universities around the world.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Information Ernest Kantcheche said from the government perspective this is a good development.
“We also want to promote usage of ICT by promoting institutions higher learning and research to contribute to the development of the country."
Solomon Ndindi Malawi Research and Education Network (MAREN) Chief Executive Officer said universities have been left behind when compared with institutions in other countries including like war-ravaged countries like Somalia.
“In our case we are left behind in the digital space and with this signing these institutions will be able to access online services with ease and do more. Higher education and research generate information and they can only do that if they can access to information with ease. This is a new era and should be able to generate information with ease as well."
The companies tasked to deploy Campus WI-FI are CMC Technologies, Computech Business Services Limited and Computer Automation with contracts will running for a period of three years.
Open Connect Limited has been given the role of National Connectivity to Higher Education Institution and its representative Dhlomo Zandile commended government's vision of advancing the ICT.
“Technology plays a crucial role in humans adapting, innovating and questioning the status quo. It’s a fourth industrial revolution and it happening now. Connectivity is one fundamental aspect and other elements needs to come in for the ecosystem. This will help prepare students for the future, because being unemployable is the greatest problem and this will help to resolve that.
“The rest of the world operating on digital platforms and need to ensure as students leave university, they can be able to work and contribute to the global economy. Maximising of opportunity is when you are on the same level,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the other Campus WI-FI signatories representative from Computech, Weston Chilapondwa said they will provide high quality equipment with no degradation, for many years with no blackouts dependent of electricity.
He also talked about respecting the environment as they install their equipment, high quality and high-speed internet connectivity.