Preliminary results from a multi-country study shows that the increase in mobile phones is affecting people’s social welfare and educational standards.
“Acquisition of mobile phones particularly among young people in Malawi has led to significant disruption of useful activities such as education and sleep patterns with enormous implications on daily life; less face to face interaction and expanded circulation of pornography”.
The study, conducted jointly by social scientists and anthropologists from the University of Malawi and UK’s Durham University, called on governments to consider formulating comprehensive policies, rules and regulations to contain these “negative consequences”.
The study was conducted by Milner, J. Alister Munthali, Gene Porter, and Kate Hampshire.
However, a social researcher on child protection and youth welfare, Pearson Nkhoma, argued against the proposed recommendation saying this can lead to government limiting people’s rights to expression and freedom of communication.
“People in the developed countries are fighting against Government’s eavesdropping on social networks and mobile phones. We have seen mass demonstrations as a result of the Edward Snowden revelations of what the US government has been doing.
“My fears is that this study recommends some forms of censorship which I believe is retrogressive and could take us back to the situation of the MCP’s one party regime”
Nkhoma, a PhD researcher at Durham University, outlined that mobile phones and the social network have harnessed the consolidation of Malawi’s democracy, enhanced active citizenship and an open society as showed with social network’s discussions as regards to the infamous cashgate scandal, tripartite elections and the July 20 demonstrations.
“As we commemorate Malawi’s 50 years independence anniversary, examining the challenges our fore fathers faced against the one party regime and the challenges we have been facing in consolidating democracy and human rights while looking at opportunities, I would like to argue that we have to embrace the existence of mobile phones and the social network without subjecting it to government’s censorship.
“What is needed is just preparing ourselves for responsible use of mobile phones and social network. It is an outright human rights violation to censor people chatting, whether mobile phones are used as the platforms of communication or not”.
The preliminary results were presented during a 2014 social science conference held at the University of Malawi to commemorate Malawi’s 50th independence anniversary.
It was also attended by former Speaker of Parliament, Henry Chimunthu Banda who also launched his book titled Malawian parliament: Origins, Reforms & Practices.