The World Bank, through the International Development Association, has provided Malawi's government with a $72.4 million loan to help build the digital foundations needed to help the country connect to the global digital economy.
“This project assures Malawi of a better digital future – using technology to modernize government operations, enabling citizens to access public services and information online from any corner of the country and preparing today’s youth with the digital skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Nicholas Dausi, Malawi's Minister of Information and Communications Technology.
Malawi's Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe with World Bank Country Manager, Laura Kullenburg.
The Malawi Digital Foundations Project is Phase I of the Digital Malawi Program which it is hoped will significantly expand access to the Internet in the Southern Afrikan country.
Apart from using the loan to make the Internet more affordable in Malawi, the project will also include support for building the necessary infrastructure and skills for the country's government to scale up its online public services offerings.
“Digital technology is absolutely essential to Malawi’s socio-economic development. Across the world, communications, commerce, and services are moving online. Malawi cannot afford to be left behind,” said Laura Kullenberg, World Bank Country Manager for Malawi.
Kullenberg added that an investment in ICT is also an investment in economic growth, jobs, education, health, agriculture, and good governance. “With ICT, a student in a remote village can get access to the same educational content as the one in the capital city, and that is where Malawi needs to be,”.
The project is not a purely government led initiative but will also leverage private sector infrastructure investment and support regulatory and policy measures aimed at increasing competitiveness, quality and affordability of Internet services in Malawi.
“Both the public and private sectors will be critical to Malawi’s digital transformation efforts, especially rolling out to rural areas where partnerships could be of better value than isolated undertakings,” said Jimmy Lipunga, Chief Executive Officer of Malawi's Public‐Private Partnership Commission (PPPC).
Implementation of Malawi's Digital Foundations Project will be led by the PPPC. Other key partners include the Ministry of ICT and the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA). While Government and MACRA will be key in creating a conducive climate for digital investment, collaboration among the public, private, and academic sectors will strongly catalyze implementation.
What is not clear at this stage is the details of what exactly the project will be involved in implementing with the currently public procurement plan only showing details and budgets for selecting and hiring consultants.