MALAWI LICENCES 24 ISPs BUT ONLY 4 ARE OPERATIONAL

8 September 2000

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NEWS UPDATE WILL TAKE A ONE WEEK CHRISTMAS BREAK BETWEEN ISSUE 40 ON 17 DECEMBER AND ISSUE 41 ON 1 JANUARY.

ISSUE NO 38

MALAWI LICENCES 24 ISPs BUT ONLY 4 ARE OPERATIONAL

Last week the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) granted 24 Internet licences. Only four are currently operational but the regulator says that Malawi is well ahead of the game in regional terms. News Update interviewed Paul Shaw of Africa Online (the other Africa Online) to see how the claims matched the reality.

The Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) has granted 24 Internet licences. MACRA’s David Kadwa said that four were currently active whilst the others were in the build-up phase, overcoming the logistical difficulties of getting computers and premises. He said that although the Government still lacked any policy for promoting internet services the response from potential providers had been very good.

Kadwa also claimed that in terms of SADC’s policy of its members making their economies information based that Malawi was well ahead:"With the exception of South Africa and Botswana, Malawi is far ahead in terms of its action plan and the implementation of it."

News Update talked to one of the country’s newest ISPs, Africa Online: not the Africa Online but more of that later. It established itself as an ISP from 1st September 2000 and has grown to about 100 users. There are restrictions on bandwidth and IP addresses which will prevent it growing much larger but it hopes to achieve 200 users by the end of the year. "At that point we’ll reconsider our position, says Africa Online’s Paul Shaw. "Using the Leland gateway we have 8 IP addresses, only 6 of which are useable. We are seeking ways to extend this".

So what are you are nunning on? "On NT and whilst I can already hear the "why?" forming on your lips, there is simply no Unix or Linux support available here. We have MCSE and CCNA on staff and this keeps us up and running".

It is actively pursuing wireless access (microwave) and is fairly well advanced down that path. The national telco is unable to offer much in the way of digital services (no ISDN). But as Paul Shaw says:"We see that as a major growth point once the infrastructure is in place".

Its website is http: www.africa-online.net and if you would like to see some of its other work check out http:www.africa-online.net/openarms and http:www.dedzapottery.com.

So what’s with the Africa Online name? "I have to admit that the Africa Online name is proving a bit of a headache. We registered it some time ago when we first decided to attempt to obtain an ISP licence. When we set it up we were unaware just how fast the other Africa Online had expanded and there is some confusion. Our company is called Data Systems Ltd, Africa Online is just a trading name so we may have to move away from it if the "other" Africa Online continues to expand".

The internet situation in Malawi has changed considerably with the introduction of the Leland Gateway. MalawiNet is still by far the dominant force but with an estimated 7000 clients using 90 lines and 256 k of bandwidth but the service is reported to be "pretty average". The SNDP (Sustainable Network Development Program) also is an ISP but an odd one, bridging the public-private divide. Entirely funded by the UNDP to create a Malawi data infrastructure, they are now going "all guns blazing" in the commercial sector. Paul Shaw is critical: "I doubt that they can do that in terms of their charter, but as usual anything goes in Malawi".There are a couple of other new providers WISS and Malawibiz but they are not yet very high profile.

LETTERS

SKEWED RESEARCH ON CYBERCAFES

In the Useful Web Sites section in News Update 35 you reviewed a site providing information on cybercafes At the end you asked:" Why are there more cybercafes in Algeria than any of the other countries?" Perhaps the person who made the database has more access to information in Algeria than anywhere else. There are over 20 cybercafes in Kampala alone.

Christina Jordan

Life in Africa Foundation, Uganda