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Madonna in Malawi, Malawi in global ICT rankings, and Media under attack

News that Madonna was visiting Malawi again sparked rumors that she was going to adopt another child, this time a girl by the name of Grace. While most of the blogs carrying Madonna story are foreign to Malawi, it has been a week swarmed by postings on her benevolence, keeping away Malawian journalists and the meetings she is having in Malawi.

One Malawian blog Ndagha wished Malawian journalists were given a chance to interview Madonna and ask her some tough questions including:

Malawi has about 85 percent of its active reproductive age group HIV negative. What word if any about HIV testing. As a role model, could she have an HIV test?
Could she consider moving to Malawi?
What she thinks Kaballah will mean to Malawians?

Madonna is a Kaballah convert.

Elsewhere on the Malawi blogosphere, Ndagha writes about a three-month long Global ICT online course that 53 participants are enjoying. The course run by penplusbytes has participants from various countries. The blogger hopes that the course will equip him with skills to communicate better with new ICT tools:

This is one of the rare training opportunities students spend at least an hour each day online and learn. I hope that the 53 of us will interact and learn more. My particular objectives are:

1. I want to better understand the ICT theories and concepts
2. I want to learn how to do podcasting and apply it to blogs
3. I desire to learn how to relate ICT to practical radio programming
4. I want to grow in my online skills and do better journalism.
5. I want to be challenged and pass on the knowledge to my immediate colleagues and others

Malawi going back to “Egypt”

Since 2007 began, politics continues to take centre stage in the discussions by many Malawians prompted by the announcement of former president Bakili Muluzi that he will contest the 2009 presidential elections. A number of bloggers have made thier contributions on this before. A Blantyre-based journalist Joe Mlenga likens the possible comeback of Muluzi as president to Malawians (Israelites) going back to Egypt. On his blog God is Good, Joe strongly argues that there shouldn't really be a debate over whether former Malawi president should contest in the 2009 polls because:

It is like asking the children of Israel to go back to Pharaoh's atrocities in Egypt as recounted in the Bible. I feel Muluzi failed to leave any impressive legacy and he should have been wise enough to retire. As I see it and as many have pointed out, he cannot compare with the present government in terms of administration. Even during his rallies, one can see that Muluzi really has nothing new to offer apart from trying to put down the achievements of the current government. But if he is stubborn, let Muluzi come to the polls where I foresee disaster and embarrassment for him.

The comeback of Muluzi is interpretted by some Malawians as the absence of capable people who could take over. Historically, the power base for the rulling parties since 1964 has been Southern and Central Malawi, which makes some people fear that there will never be a president from the north since voting has so far reflected regional biases.

Isaac Ziba argues on his blog that though parties are regionalistic, Malawians should be more concerned with who can do a quality job to develop the people and the country. In his post titled “Most Malawian political parties are regionalistic“, Ziba writes:

Malawians, in my view, would care very little about where their leader comes from provided that leader facilitates the arrival of food on their plates on a daily, constant basis, Malawians, in my view, would care very little of where their leader comes from if that leader facilitated improvement in the quality of Malawians’ lives; in my view Malawians will care very little where their leader comes from if that leader facilitated good infrastructural development, Malawians, in my view, will care very little where their leader comes from if that leader made Malawian matter in his leadership dispensation, Malawians, yes, in my view, will care very little where their leader comes from if that leader made them live on more than a dollar a day, in real terms.

Malawi in the The Global Information Technology Report

For the first time Malawi has appeared in The Global Information Technology Report which has become a valuable and unique benchmarking tool to determine national ICT strengths and weaknesses, and to evaluate progress. It also highlights the continuing importance of ICT application and development for economic growth. The Report which uses the Networked Readiness Index (NRI) measures the degree of preparation of a nation or community to participate in and benefit from ICT development. For the first time, Denmark tops the rankings of The Global Information Technology Report's Networked Readiness Index, as a culmination of an upward trend since 2003.

Soyapi Mumba praises Malawi which, despite its poor state of network readiness, has beaten countries like Zambia, Cameroon, Chad and Ethiopia. In a post titled “African Countries slipping down in tech rankings” he writes:

My country, Malawi, is a new entrant in this year's ranking at position 111 out of 122 countries ranked, beating neighbouring Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe among others. In Africa, we are at position 17 out the 26 African countries ranked with Tunisia, South Africa and Botswana taking the first 3 positions respectively (1,2,3) in Africa and globally 35, 47, 67 respectively.

It's unfortunate that Rwanda was not included on the list. Rwanda has been getting a lot praise in Africa for investing a lot in ICT. It is aiming to be the technology hub in Africa and is one of the first countries to sign deals with leading Internet companies while other African countries are still looking up to .

Journalism Under attack

The media in Malawi in the last few weeks has been under attack due to various political developments in the country. The Malawi Communications Authority (MACRA) ordered that private radio stations should ask for permission to cover any outside broadcast functions. Media owners, practitioners and civil society said this is a violation of freedom of expression. Later on media reports claimed that Minister of Information had suggested that government should start censoring the input and output on the Internet. Big Mouth Austin Madingais worried with the development and offers an advice to the government:

There is an article in the Nation newspaper today suggesting that government wants to censor the internet in Malawi although Govt has denied it. The article goes on further to say forums like Nyasanet, Malawi Talk and Nyasa Times are the main target of this censorship and that government wants to send specialists for training to implement the censorship. Information minister has denied all this but went on the caution web developers and internet service providers to watch what they publish. Could someone kindly inform the honourable information minister that web developers and ISP's are not responsible for a web sites content.

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