Under the ‘Smart Zambia’ initiative, the Lungu administration is ensuring that the country emerges as an ICT-enabled economy through the use of innovative technology for e-Government, mobile payments, and IT talent.
From mobile transfers to e-vouchers for farmers, an explosion of digital services is transforming Zambians’ lives. Introduced in 2015, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu’s vision to create a ‘Smart Zambia’ sees ICT as a key driver of socio-economic development.
Taking a look at some statistics of the World Bank, a 10% increase in broadband penetration is associated with a 1.4% increase in GDP growth in emerging markets. With regard to job creation, every 10% increase in broadband penetration will lead to 3% increase of employment rate. Similarly, research also shows a 90% correlation between investments in ICT and a country’s success in meeting several key United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. With the vision to become a middle-income country by 2030, ICT is an essential and smarter tool to leapfrog past the countrys competition.
Nowhere is this support for technology stronger than in e-government, where the agenda is aimed at modernising and automating payment and revenue collection processes. The ongoing transformation of public service delivery from the traditional face-to-face to online channels will likely reduce the cost of public service delivery. Hon. Minister Mwanakatwe points out, “this drive is being facilitated by government through measures to increase ICT connectivity in the country.” Digitalisation also presents financial institutions with an opportunity to collaborate with the public sector in the development and deployment of online solutions, which will impact positively on their bottom lines.
But none of this would be possible without the government’s commitment to infrastructure. The US$280 million project currently underway will add 1,009 communication towers to the hundreds already built and boost mobile penetration rates to 94%, which is great news for major operators. “The government agenda to come up with smart cities is going to help create demand for the ICT sector and is going to transform the culture of the nation in ICT,” states Hai Telecommunications’ Managing Director, Samson Longwe.
“Smart Zambia is not just about the government, it creates an environment open for investment.”
Patrick Mutimushi, Director General, Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA)
Capital expenditures by commercial institutions are being reduced through the outsourcing of some of their ICT requirements, such as data storage and hosting, by embracing the cloud services offered by the Zambia National Data Centre. Serving as a reliable business continuity partner, the National Data Centre has capacity to operate for several days using its own power sources. Tele and video-conferencing facilities in various government departments are being built to eliminate the costs and time constraints of face-to-face meetings while broadband network is also being deployed across the country connecting organisations and households to the National Data Centre.
Through this, SMEs will also be able to improve their online presence and competing for market share in the global market space. “That’s the vision we have around ICT: we believe it’s an enabler of business and commerce,” states Hon. Brian Mushimba, Minister of Transportation and Communication. “We want to make sure that our service provision is on the back of ICT.”
With massive investments in infrastructure, a base needs to be set among the Zambian population in order to harness this technology. As a result, the Lungu administration has made it compulsory that ICT is offered in all secondary schools to build capacity at an early age. The establishment of the Zambia ICT Centre of Excellence (ICE) is projected to increase the pool of ICT talent necessary to modernise the public service and to drive the innovative activities in the economy. “We have a programme called Young Innovators, where we sponsor innovative ICT programmes,” states ZICTA’s Director, Patrick Mutimushi. “Our objective is to guide their entrepreneurial spirit to foster innovation and create jobs. We have been running this for the last three years, and it’s amazing to see their creations.”
As we have seen, the increasing usage of mobile phones has given rise to a uniquely Zambian ecosystem of mobile money services that are boosting financial inclusion. The Zambia Revenue Authority’s online tax filing service has aided revenue collection, while moving from paper to digital has increased transparency in the mining sector plus the distribution of subsidy vouchers for farmers. Improving the flow of information among government departments will enhance revenue collections leading towards a lower fiscal deficit improving the country’s debt sustainability position and investor confidence.
Improved FDI flows signify value addition in natural resources, capital formation and capacity building, important factors to create sustainable and prosperous socio-economic growth. “Smart Zambia is not just about the government,” points out ZICTA’s Mutimushi, “it creates an environment open for investment.”