Wednesday, 2 May 2018

MEC to register more voters in digital voter registration

Pic: An example of the BVR Kits utilized by National Registration Bureau that MEC has adapted for the Biometric Voter Registration exercise

As Malawi prepares for the 2019 Tripartite Elections, the Malawi Electoral Commission MEC says is it is expecting to register more than 9 million eligible voters during the upcoming  digital Voter Registration exercise  as compared to  the 2013 voter registration exercise where MEC registered  7.5 million voters through the previous,  manual, voter registration system.

This year’s voter registration exercise will utilize a Biometric Voter Registration Kit  which will  instantly  register voters by scanning  data from the newly introduced National ID to  produce a voter registration certificate in less than  half a minute.

The BVR is reported to be significantly faster and more efficient as compared to the  time-consuming  Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) system of collecting voter  data on paper then scanning the data onto a computer which saw people  queuing for hours waiting for a turn to be registered as voters in 2013. 

Speaking  during a demonstration of the Biometric Voter Registration process at Riverside Hotel in Lilongwe at the recent training of newly recruited MEC stringers,  MEC’s Deputy Director of ICT Ebony Msikawanthu   explained that the digital innovation in the voter registration process  is expected to reduce queues at voter registration centers as MEC officials will now be able to register hundreds of people in a single day at each registration centre.

According to Msikawanthu, the BVR  is also expected to eradicate some anomalies such as such as misspelled names and wrong voter photographs that were prevalent in the last voter registration exercise.

Meanwhile, the Electoral Body is currently conducting civic education awareness exercises to sensitize Malawians on its first ever digitized voter registration process. 
According to MEC, the first phase of the Biometric Voter Registration exercise  runs from 25th May 2018  to June 7, 2018 covering;  Mchinji District, Dowa District, Kasungu District, Kasungu Municipality, Nkhotakota  and Ntchisi District.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Malawi’s National Fibre Backbone Works Project Progressing

Implementation of Malawi’s  US$23 million National Fibre Backbone Project is progressing well says Government.

Speaking during a sensitization meeting with journalists  under the Nyika Media Club in Mzuzu, Northern Malawi, on Wednesday, Minister of Information Communication and Technology Nicholas Dausi said laying of the fiber backbone in Chitipa has already commenced.

“Almost all the equipment is here. I just visited the sites in Chitipa and other areas where they have began to lay the fiber,” Said Dausi.

The Project which is being implemented by Huawei Technologies and Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM)  in all 28 of Malawi’s districts was launched by Malawi’s President, Peter Mutharika  on Apr 30 this year.

According to Dausi, once completed the National Fiber Backbone  is expected to drastically reduce the cost of the last mile connection to all areas of Malawi including rural areas. The Fiber Backbone Project is  aimed at supporting the implementation of Malawi’s e-government system where education, health, agriculture and other vital sectors are currently undergoing a digitalization process.

“ Once finalized, the Initiative will create a platform for Internet connectivity and provide the needed broadband to support e-health, e-education and the entire e-government system, " said Dausi. 

The Information Minister  added that after the roll-out of the Fiber Backbone Project, the Government will commence registration of sim cards on both TNM and Airtel in a bid to track and  curb electronic theft  in mobile money transfers and extremism.

On his part President of the Nyika Media Club said  that there was need to train Malawian journalists in emerging issues such as cyber security to bridge the current knowledge gap among reporters.

The Malawi Government has since pledged to train journalists in ICT4D  alongside the roll of Project to enable reporters to accurately sensitize Malawians on how they can leverage on  the e-government system for  development.

Malawi is steadily registering an increased Internet penetration internet which is now at  6.8%, while mobile phone penetration has also increased to 38.3% in recent years. The Fiber Backbone Project is expected to accelerate internet penetration in both rural and urban Malawi which has been limited by the high costs of Internet.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Table 1: Current innovations that are digitally dissrupting the Malawi healthcare industry and their impact on customer expectations and value [data summarized from Malawi Digital Health Dashboard available at]

Area of Innovation
Implementing organization
Customer expectations and innovation impact on customer value
Data  management
Mobile Apps and Monitoring Platform: eg CStock
Malawi Government, Ministry of Health
Improved availability of drugs  in public facilities due to improved monitoring and control
electronic Health Information Management Systems (HIMS): eg the mobile District Health System  (DHSMobile)
Malawi Government
Improved health data quality; integrity, timeliness, security, accuracy
Service delivery: Treatment and patient support
health education and awareness
mHealth/Mobile Apps: On both feature and smart phones used to remind women and girls to take contraceptives
Village Reach, Mamaye
Increased personalization,  Increased adherence to drugs 
USSD: For subscribing to and managing insurance services on mobile  phones
Micro Insurer (Malawi and Zambia) in partnership with telecommunication companies eg TNM and Airtel
More affordable and easy subscription to health insurance

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Jumpstarting Innovation: Innovation does not need to be expensive

Business today is far from ”business as usual” owing to an ever-changing business landscape that is chaotic, fragmented, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Traditional marketing based on a market-driven customer orientation is failing to propel organizations to maintain a competitive advantage needed to succeed. Successful enterprises are now reinventing themselves and changing from a formulated marketing approach to a marketing that is inclined towards entrepreneurship whereby an organization re-ignites an ‘entrepreneurial spirit and actions that made them successful in the first place. This has led to the rise of the entrepreneurial marketing approach.

Marketing practice is now a more innovation-oriented kind of marketing that is based on intuition, informality and speed of decision-making in regard to assessing new ideas and responding to market needs just like entrepreneurs do and act.  Entrepreneurial marketing  helps organizations to become innovative by quickly identifying and exploring opportunities that can lead to the development of innovative products that can help to satisfy and retain  profitable customers.

Innovative organizations are also internally characterized by an organizational culture and climate that supports innovative ideas and enables the realization of such ideas into value-adding products and services.

Partnerships are also  becoming popular among innovative organizations. Innovative organization in the healthcare industry  are currently   going up the road of partnerships.  For example, Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) one of the ticking organizations in Malawi’s healthcare  sector has strategic  vertical alliances with Government  of Malawi and  horizontal partnerships with  players in the same industry such  Banja La Mtsogolo, Population Services International-Malawi, private clinics.  Partnerships with direct or indirect competitors have recently proven to be good for innovation and hence good for business.

The big question that  marketing managers ask  on  jump starting innovation is to “have a separate innovation department or not to?”  If the process of idea generation  for an  organizations  entails  waiting for the Annual General Meeting to solicit new ideas from its Departments , and there organization  has no channel of harnessing these and further exploring the ones with the potential to become the organization’s next innovative service or project, chances are that organization will not  see much innovation. 

Innovation does not have to be expensive.  To leverage on limited resources and the available assets and expertise of others in the external environment,  an organizations’s first innovation projects could be done collaboratively with others players in these networks. Before collaborating with others, it is imperative to consider  aspects such as  establishing whether these potential innovations are in line with the core business and the expected benefits and  responsibilities of the collaborating partners as well as  keeping  track of whether the collaborative innovation projects are being effective or not by testing their effectiveness in small ways.

Marketing experts  recommend  that  every marketing function should work towards developing and embedding innovation into their  organizational culture. This can be done through longer term strategic planning such as the development of innovation programmes, hiring or allocating innovation manager and short term strategy such us setting up project-based collaborative partnerships with entrepreneurs to facilitate learning from newer and entrepreneurial firms.

Collaborative innovation partnerships or networks such as co-creating with customers and experts through online forums of innovation networks such as HealthEnabled Africa can help health sector organizations to attain new business leads, to learn about new opportunities to collaborate on projects as well as to gain intellectual exchange among other benefits.

 Further, organizations needs to work at improving customer relationships so that they  can derive customer insights and adapt innovations quickly to their needs.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Ride the Wave of Digital Disruption, Deliver Customer Value in Africa’s Healthcare Market

Pic:Courtesy of
The concept of digital disruption has remained hugely mystical, especially among marketers and ICT4D practitioners. Digital disruptions have everything to do with marketing and every ticking marketer needs to understand the concept and absorb into the very nucleus of  marketing strategy for many reasons.

The concept of Digital Disruption refers to the disturbances that occur in markets that upset the value proposition of goods and services as a result of innovations or new value-adding uses of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and new business models.

 The growth in use of new ICT, by both consumers and organizations has had a revolutionary change on buying behaviour and the production and supply of goods and services and on business models. Innovation itself can be in the form of ideas, business models, technology or processes that are scalable at a reasonable cost and that meet a customer’s need .

Therefore, digital disruptions refer to more than just new technological inventions and engineering breakthroughs that displace old technology which other researchers have called disruptive technologies. It is important for organizations to pay attention and respond to digital disruptions which redefine the basis of competition and create new markets.

 Research has shown that organisations that fail to reinvent themselves and adapt to these new trends lose their competitive edge and may even fold. Contrary, the organisations that reinvent themselves through application of innovation of new products or processes and creative use of information flourish in new and uncontested markets, which  marketing gurus Kim and Maurborgne  have defined as blue oceans.

 Therefore, any organization or entrepreneur that uses creativity to apply information, imagination and adds value to already existing products or services can be termed innovative and it is this innovativeness that enable organizations to sail through turbulence s posed by the digital disruptions.
In the healthcare industry in Africa and in Malawi, major digital disruptions are in areas such as data or knowledge management, health service delivery, business models and insurance.

 In recent years, healthcare has experienced innovations that have gradually improved processes overtime called incremental innovations. However, healthcare is still experiencing innovations that are highly uncertain, those that explore new technology and focus on products or services with unparalleled performance feature use described as radical innovations. Radical innovations include drones or Unmanned Ariel Vehicles (UAVs). These are currently being tested by UNICEF in Malawi for fast delivery of HIV test results on newborns.

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) which refers to a universe of connected devices, including wearable body sensors like watches that tell vital signs and connect to other digital devices are all examples of radical innovations that are raising customer expectations, today, in Malawi and Africa as a whole.

 Radical or incremental innovation in healthcare have affected customer needs and expectations in various ways. For example today’s healthcare consumers, the patients, now expect more customized healthcare and increased participation in choosing health data and services. In my next post,  I present insights on positioning your organisation to ride the wave of digital disruptions.  We tackle, collaboration, co-creation, innovation and restructuring marketing functions for disruptive times.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Marketing and Walking the Talk on Value-Added ICT Products and Services

The year 2015 was rich in conferences, seminars and workshops  of ICT4D stakeholders across the African Continent hugely aimed at unmasking value added products  and services  and related  marketing mix issues.  Of course this talk is not very new.

So how can organizations really step into the marketing realm of providing real value for customers across the Continent?  

To start with value-addition is very much a marketing concept and understanding this is the only path to realizing offerings that offer real customer value.

What marketing is not

Marketing has for a longtime been thought of as selling and for some it has come across as using fancy words to spend organizational resources on activities that cannot quite be justified financially. From the time of the industrial revolution, however, marketing has evolved from merely being  about producing as cheaply for consumers or convincing people to buy. Marketing is now more than just about segmenting customers to suit whatever the brand offers. And the practice is certainly more than just customer service.

We all carry out marketing

In today’ world marketing  is important in the private as well as public sector organization, the Not-For-Profit and startup all practice some form of internal and external marketing communications. In Essence marketing is about value exchanges between the organization and their customer. Really marketing is  every individual and organizational activity that  builds satisfying exchange relationships in a dynamic environment through the creation, distribution, promotion and pricing of goods, services and ideas as the great marketing book by Dibb et al puts it.

And why talk about value-addition?

Marketing is based on adding value for customers and considering customer needs is the starting point. It is no wonder every  marketer in 2015 talked about  providing value-added services!  In reality value addition means that organizations package their entire offering or value preposition  to meet a need in the customer’s life; making life easier and more convenient at a price that the customer is willing to pay for and return when they have a new  need is what marketing is all about.

The place of marketing

For different organizations marketing yields differently depending how it is viewed  and on the roles and the level of importance that an organization attaches to it.   In some organizations marketing is seen as an exchange process where the firms sees marketing as being more about  making both the customer and the firm  better off after an exchange of value.

Marketing can also be taken as a function of management whereby an organization develops marketing plans that  serve as leverage for attaining corporate goals such as  growth.  This normally entails that  marketing is not as important as other departments and is at the mercy of for  example finance department who could decide to fund or not fund all the marketing tactics.

Then there are those organizations that view marketing as a dynamic operation that requires swift analysis, planning and action to align the organization with trends in the market be it competitor action or changing customer needs.

Still other organizations are marketing-oriented and the customer takes the centre stage. All organizational resources  are allocated to meet the customer’s needs. This means that all the people across the different departments work together  and make decisions that are focused on satisfying the customer. And these are the organizations that provide really valuable offerings to customers.

Finally, organizations can view marketing as a catalyst for change whereby the marketer is the voice of the customer in the firm. Here the marketer  helps to improve the firms offering by advising the firm on how best it could align its offering to meet the actual needs of the customer.

 In the real world however, organizations can take more than one view of marketing.  A truly marketing oriented organization,  premised on strategic marketing,  also views marketing  as a catalyst for change and perhaps as a  dynamic operation. This enables the organization to be dynamic and provide real value for the customer in an ever-changing market place.

Reinvent and adapt or go home
It is paramount for organizations, be it the Not-For-Profit (NFP) or corporate, to be responsive to changes in the market place in order to stay competitive. Organizations that refuse or fail to reinvent and adapt to the changing customer expectations of  the market are only shooting themselves in the foot, and like Kodak, will probably not survive long.

In the tech world for example, it is not so much a “dog-eat-dog”  price-war situation that yields  customer value. It is all about knowing your customer, satisfying and even delighting them, it all comes down to the customer experience.  Apple is one brand that knows just how to delight their customers and keep them loyal with an unmatched  product and service experience.

Is your organization marketing oriented?

So whenever you talk about value-added services, ask yourself, do you know your customers and do you know what they need? Next as a professional marketer you can employ the marketing audit coupled with the popular Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT)  analysis to see just how  positioned  your organization is to meet customer needs.

In my next article, we will start the year 2016 by diving into e-health, looking at how the market place in Africa stands for ICT4D or the ICT- oriented NFP organizations.  Get to know how the NFP, National Research and Education Network (NREN) or even the startup can find their place in this market and present a meaningful value preposition to their customers.

Wishing you a Happy New Year!



Monday, 28 September 2015

This Mayor's Use of Social Media and More Has Reformed Local Government Service Delivery in Blantyre

He is the new face of local Government.  Although Mayor, Noel Chalamanda has only been in office for a year, he has  revolutionized the way people interface with Local Councils and the delivery of public services  in Malawi’s Metropolitan  City of Blantyre.  The City’s Council has  been given a shot of efficiency served with a people-focus approach. The man behind it  recently shared his secret with  me Patricia Mtungila as I   wore the cap of freelancer.

 “I am just a person who was born and raised in Blantyre and who understands what Blantyre was  is and could be if we all played our part…”
 Chalamanda says  that the secret behind Blantyre’s apt transformation  is

"Nothing magical. I respond to people’s queries through different media especially social media, listen to suggestions, take time to meet a lot of people in my office regardless of their age or status in society, listen and discuss issues.”

Despite, this mammoth shift in  style of public service delivery, there are no grunts. The people of Blantyre completely adore Mayor Chalamanda for his ability to innovatively deliver on his promise to  serve  Blantyre residents  by bringing about tangible change to the streets of Blantyre in so little time.  More here