The latest data on state of digital access in Malawi shows that there are about 5.04 million internet users in Malawi today compared to 4.03 million in January 2022, a jump of about one million users.
Malawi has a population of close to 20 million.
The report shows that internet penetration is now at 24.4 percent, up from 20.2 percent of the total population at the start of 2022.
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The State of Digital Access in Malawi 2023 report shows that 24.4 percent of the total population has access to the internet, suggesting that over 75.6 percent still do not have access to the internet.
“At the start of 2023 there were 783.8 thousand social media users in Malawi, which is 3.8 percent of the total population, and 11.81 million active cellular mobile connections, equivalent to 57.2 percent of the total population,” reads part of the report.
Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra) Director General Daudi Suleman said the rise in internet usage demonstrates that the country’s campaign to increase digitalization is working.
“The report shows that Malawi digital numbers are growing and that the country has registered 13 percent growth in the mobile subscription between 2022 and 2023,” said Suleman.
Digital transformation specialist and consultant at Digital Butterfly Alexander Banda Chapota said the figures suggest that digital adoption and use in Malawi is gradually increasing.
He however said there is still a significant proportion of the population without access to the internet.
He said the highlights show potential digital divide in the country and suggests that there is a need for more efforts to increase internet accessibility and adoption in Malawi.
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According to Chapota, while progress has been made, there is still a long way to go to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from the advantages of being online.
He said government’s campaign to increase digitalization is a step in the right direction, and, if successful, it could bring many benefits to the country such as increased access to information, education, and business opportunities.
Chapota said access to the internet offers several benefits, such as greater access to information and the potential to learn new skills for side hustles.
He said: “For instance, you can learn how to do metal fabrication on YouTube, and maybe turn into a business. Internet access is a game-changer that provides opportunities to connect with people worldwide, learn new things, and even earn a living.”
Scotland based economic commentator Velli Nyirongo said the trend may have implications for businesses and marketers who want to reach younger audiences or those who are more visually oriented.
He said the trends may have implications for communication, marketing, and other sectors that rely on social media platforms to reach their target audience.
He further said access to the internet offers benefits such as greater access to information and the potential to learn new skills for side hustles.
Malawi Human Rights Commission Executive Secretary Habiba Osman said the data in the report has also revealed gender disparities in the country.
“Gender distribution is towards males: Across all platforms, the majority of the ad audience in Malawi is male, which is a worrying trend,” Osman said.
She also said expanding internet access could bring benefits such as increased access to information, education, and business opportunities.
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She said there is a need to bridge the digital divide and increase internet access for all.