Malawi: Macra in the Process of Developing E-Waste Strategy to Protect Environment and Citizens’ Health

Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) is in the process of developing an E-waste strategy to address issues of management involving any electrical and electronic equipment that is discarded or is intended to be discarded or is required to be discarded after use.

Such include temperature equipment (fridges), televisions, lamps (fluorescent), large equipment (telecommunication equipment); small IT (mobile phones, computers); copiers, fax machines and any other common electronic products described as E-waste after its use.

This was disclosed on Monday by MACRA Board chairperson, Dr. Stanley Khaila at Sunbird Mount Soche Hotel in Blantyre at the official launch of the first-of-its-kind, ‘MACRA Open Day’ — a hub where where every year the regulator will be engaging its existing and potential licencees as well as consumers to, amongst others, address and discuss any regulatory issues and innovative ideas intended to grow the country’s ICT industry.

The E-waste was one of various regulatory initiatives that Khaila announced as having developed which are being implemented in the communication sector to ensure for a digitally transformed nation in line with the MW2063.

He emphasized that some of the electrical and electronic equipment that are discarded contain some high levels of contaminants, which can harm people as well as the environment — thus the need to control such E-waste.

According to Wikipedia, uncontrolled E-waste practices can expose people in close contacts to high levels of contaminants such as lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic — which can lead to irreversible health effects, including cancers, miscarriages, neurological damage and diminished IQs.

Wikipedia further says rapid advances in technology, economic growth, urbanisation processes, increasing demand for consumer electronic equipment and a downward trend in prices are a few factors responsible for the unparalleled growth of E-waste worldwide during the last two decades.

Thus, Khaila said MACRA is also mandated to make the communications sector as healthy as possible by regulating the proper system of disposing E-waste.

Another regulatory initiative that is in the process is the ‘Identity Register System’ — toassist in tracking down stolen phones and also ensuring that only original phones are able to be registered for use on the mobile and telephone networks.

This, Khaila said, is also to counter fraud and digital theft, which is rampant through mobile money services, giving an example that he himself was contacted by an unknown caller, who claimed he was a legal counsel who could assist Khaila through his court case.

“I don’t have any court case against me,” he said, while emphasizing on MACRA management to hasten the process of Identity Register System, attesting that many Malawians have been defrauded in this manner and cases are rising.

The other regulatory initiatives currently being implementing are establishment and operationalization of the Malawi Computer Response Team — which is responsible for the coordination of cyber security issues on a national level; establishment and operationalization of the Universal Service Fund, which is MACRA’s main regulatory tool in providing universal ICT access for all — which finances ICT projects in rural and hard-to-reach areas of the country.

MACRA also developed and implemented the National Addressing System — aimed at assigning and allocating physical addresses to all residents in the country through property and house numbering and street naming.

Such developments are what MACRA aims to announce to licencees and consumers during the MACRA Days and Director General, Daud Suleman emphasized that as the Regulator of ICT services their “main function and duty is to ensure that there is sanity in the communication sector through setting rules and standards of conformity”.

“As a Regulator, we have also been tasked with ensuring that every single Malawian has access to telecommunication, broadcasting and postal services at an affordable rate and in order for us to realize our mission of promoting the delivery of safe, reliable, secure and affordable communications services in Malawi and for Malawi to attain the vision it envisages in MW2063, there is need for us to divert from our norm and think outside the box.

“In light of diverting from the norm of sitting in our offices and carrying out regulatory sanctions in corporate boardrooms, we felt the need to provide a platform where the regulator can interact directly with its licensees and consumers of ICT services.

“We believe that Malawi has a wealth of potential and brilliant minds that can develop ICT solutions tailor made by us for us. By providing such an open platform, we hope to foster and build and strengthen the relationships that we have with our licensees, consumers of ICTs as well as potential business partners.”

He added that Malawi is making tremendous strides in digital inclusion through affordable ICT services, “most notably is the change in data tariffing by our mobile network providers through such products like Pamtsetse and Mo Faya bundles”.

“We understand that we still have a long way to go in bridging the digital divide, but I would like to assure you that we are in the right direction.”

He stressed that MACRA alone cannot achieve the task of providing universal affordable ICT access for all, saying “if Malawi is to provide communication services for a digitally transformed nation, there is need for collaborative efforts with key stakeholders in the industry and a vibrant and well-informed ICT consumer”.

“Today, we have stationed our technical departments, which are the postal, broadcasting, telecommunication, economic regulation, computer emergency response team (CERT) and Universal Service Fund (USF) departments across the room so they can tend to your needs.

“We hope that by the end of this day we shall have a lot of people interested in partnering with us in the provision of ICT services across the various sectors. We believe that such efforts as this open day will provide the necessary platforms for interaction and collaboration for a vibrant digital nation,” he said.

The next MACRA Day sessions are in Lilongwe at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) on Wednesday (August 10) and in Mzuzu on Friday, August 12 at Grand Palace Hotel.

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