For most people my age, the internet is one of the most important things we have/need to have access to.
This is because we are at a point of establishment and the internet happens to be the best place to find opportunities for the same. For example, as a fresh graduate, I constantly find myself surfing the internet for job opportunities as well as education opportunities for a master’s degree.
For a lot of youths around the world, the internet is a source of joy as it reduces the amount of trouble one has to go through to get different opportunities s/he is looking for. However, this is not the case for Malawian youths who have to pay high data charges to access the internet.
Once Lughano Nkuna of Pretty Brown Skin Store was asked to give her take on the exorbitant data charges in Malawi. She said:
“I often find myself wondering how people who have no source of income can afford data. On the business end there are apps like Instagram that I hardly use for business because they consume a lot of data and our service providers charge high rates. This is limiting”
Like many other youths running online businesses, Lughano incurs high data charges when selling her products to customers. A lot of people especially youths often find themselves in situations where they cannot afford the internet and it is for this reason that many young people decided to participate in the data must fall campaign.
Led by Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA), Malawian youths and the general public took it to social media to pressurize the data providers in Malawi to reduce their bundle tariffs in what was dubbed as “Data must fall campaign”.
Following the campaign Malawi government reviewed the cost of ICT services in Malawi which later led to a reduction of data charges. In as much as the charges were reduced and have further been reduced earlier this year, most Malawians feel there is need for the telecommunications companies to further revise their data charges downwards.
Asked what she think the Malawian data providers should do to offer affordable internet to Malawians, Lughano had the following to say;
“Focus on lowering the price charged for consumption. Like put value in 1mb. The price of 1mb can be adjusted [as it has been done] but for some reason it finishes just as fast. In the end I am still buying a lot of airtime. Make it last”.
In an era where technology especially the internet plays a critical role in the growth and development of economies, it is very important that people especially youths have access to the internet.
It is therefore important that both the government and the youth of Malawi continue to press for the reduction of these data charges if real change is to take place.
Zubeir Mortar who chaired the reduce data cost campaign had this comment on the matter:
“The reduction in data charges is insignificant. It really did not reach our expectations, however we believe that this is a first step and therefore the service providers can do more”