By Trouble Ziba
Lilongwe, Minister of Information, Gospel Kazako has expressed delight at Airtel’s decision to increase data benefits for its customers and reducing Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) tariffs but has asked the mobile operator to do more to accord Malawians affordable ICT services.
Airtel Malawi, one of the country’s mobile operators, announced on Thursday at a press briefing in Lilongwe that it would increase the value of data bundles to make internet connectivity more affordable effective Monday, August 3, 2020.
Reacting to what he described as good news, Kazako expressed delight with the mobile operator’s move, saying affordable internet charges would bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.
“…for Malawi to forge ahead in the digital era, it is of paramount importance that ICT services be accessible and affordable at all times,” he said.
The Minister said this was why the government has placed the ICT sector as a priority among priorities and that the Telecommunications sub-sector is catalyst of this process.
Kazako assured that the government would continue providing a conducive environment for investors in the country, including those in the ICT sector.
He pointed out at two things among others that the mobile operator needs to look into.
Kazako asked the mobile operator not to put expiry dates for bundles, saying consumers need to be left to plan on when to use their bundles.
The Minister also asked Airtel to consider giving data bonuses to its deserving customers without waiting for them to actually demand their deserved bonuses.
“Bonuses should not be demanded, they must be given automatically to those who deserve them,” he said.
When Airtel’s Managing Director, Charles Kamoto, earlier announced the company’s decision to increase benefits of internet bundles, he said the company had been listening carefully to feedback from customers and has now understood their concerns.
“That is why we are increasing benefits in some of our bundles and reducing Pay-As- You-Go tariffs,” the managing director announced.
He said his company shares the government’s goal of making high-quality digital services available and affordable for the people.
Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) Director-General, Henry Shamu said in his earlier remarks, that there have been complaints from the public that the internet is expensive in Malawi.
He said when the regulatory body met internet providers; they attributed the costs to the landlocked states of the country and high levels of taxation in the country.
Shamu said his institution would engage a consultant to look into internet charges in the country but the Minister said while that was a good thing to do, consumers were also the best consultants to listen to.
Among others, Airtel has reduced PAYG tariffs from K15/MB to K5/MB.
It has increased customers’ data benefits by effectively reducing the rate per MB for daily, weekly volume bundles and WhatsApp bundles substantially.
Customers opting for daily volume bundle for K100 will now receive 25 MB per day, compared to the previous 15 MB.
Those customers with a weekly bundle for K300 will receive 80MB per week, an increase of 30 MB compared with the old bundle.
Meanwhile, customers choosing a weekly bundle for K600 will receive 175 MB per week, an increase of 25 MB.
MACRA in conjunction with Airtel Malawi and Information Ministry organised the press briefing