Tag Archives: Zambia

Zambia ICT4D Resources

1) Zambia National ICT Policy. This is Zambia’s first ICT policy, finalized in 2005 and adopted by the government in 2006. It was created by the Ministry of Communications and Transport and written in English

2) Zambia Information & Communication Technology Authority. In 2009, ZICTA gained broader authority to implement ICT policy.

3) Zambia Radio Farm Forum Implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture in the late 1960s, the program is still in use today

4) Panos London Zambia Policy Briefing Very helpful policy institute briefing on problems and possibilities for ICTs in Zambia

5) It was not too difficult to find resources regarding ICT policy in Zambia. They are available, some research in necessary.

ICT Production in Zambia

ICT usage in Zambia has increased dramatically over the past few years. Amongst other indicators, the nation has experience a massive increase in mobile phone subscriptions, from less that 500,000 in 2003 to more than 3 million in 2008 – nearly one cellphone subscription for every two adult citizens. However, the nation has lacked any meaningful increase in ICT production. The Zambian economy is principally involved in primary sector activities – exporting a large amount of copper and agricultural products. While high-tech exports make-up 24.8% of all manufactured exports, ranking them 19th worldwide, the actual amount of exports comes to $221 million. When you take into account that copper mining is responsible for 60% of total exports and accounts for $5.6 billion, it is clear that the high percentage of high-tech exports is purely due to the lack of size of the Zambian economy overall.

Zambia has a fairly developed national ICT policy, dating back to 2001. Current policy is more concerned with increasing ICT usage, rather than promoting ICT production. Of the 13 pillars that make up Zambian ICT policy, only 1 is concerned with developing a local ICT industry. Hypothetically, it might make sense for the Zambian economy to focus more on promoting ICT production. Due to their reliance on copper, the entire economy of the country could collapse were global copper demand or prices to fluctuate. By diversifying their economy and making a concerted effort to increase ICT production, Zambia would be better protected from shifts in global demand for copper.

One could argue that it is important for the nation to be able to stand before it walks – i.e. Zambia should focus on ensuring that improvements to ICT infrastructure are made and that the prices of ICT equipment are reduced before focusing on improving the production capabilities of the country. However, future production of ICTs might be an interesting means for spurring employment opportunities and economic growth and stability throughout Zambia.

Can you Define Failure?

The vast majority is very quick to criticize ICT4D projects and highlight statistics such as the World Bank statistic that states that about 70% of ICT projects fail, without even understanding the context of these numbers. In this case, how does the World Bank define failure? What constitutes a project as a failure? Some projects may be black and white with a clear boundary between success and failure; however, most projects lack this definitive boundary. For example, the Zambian Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) program, known as Learning at the Taonga Market (LTM) was launched in 2000 to create low cost, high quality education for educationally and geographically marginalized areas in Zambia. The LTM integrates IRI, which acts as an active teaching tool, and the Lifeline radio, which is a dual-powered device that uses both wind-up and solar technology minimizing the dependency on other energy sources to teach lessons written and recorded by the Educational Broadcasting Services in conjunction with the Education Development Center. This program was designed to use existing technology, such as the radio, to provide high-quality education for over 800,000 children who cannot attend school. Since its implementation, over 160,000 children have received education through the LTM and these children have tested better than the children attending mainstream schools.

While this program appears to be working, some people argue it is another failed ICT project. Even though the demand for the LTM program and the enrolment of G1 participants have steadily increased, the retention rate is uncomfortably low as only 2,916 of the total 7,782 learners completed G5. Additionally, when testing the participants’ literacy and numeracy skills, it was apparent that the children had gained knowledge. However, the mean numeracy score dropped from 71.5% in 2001 to 63% in 2003 and the literacy skills dropped from 56.6% in 2001 to 48.8% in 2003. Even though observers noticed an improvement in literacy and numeracy skills, the tests proved otherwise. Does this mean that the project failed?

The lowered retention rate could be due to a lack of monitoring and evaluation; some people could be counted as “drop outs” even if they just switched IRI centers. Additionally, the discrepancies in the numeracy and literacy tests could be due to the different sample sizes tested in 2001 and 2003. Therefore, is it accurate to consider this project a failure on the basis of somewhat skewed data? And even if the data were accurate, should this project be classified as a failure based on two statistics, even when vast improvements and increases in demand have been noted? All these questions cannot be answered unless we define failure.  

Breaking the Gender Barrier to Access: The Asikana Network

In the developing world, there are many barriers to access to technology, including infrastructure, language, geography, and gender. One Zambian women’s group has been making important strides in improving women and girls’ access to information and communication technologies. The Asikana Network, founded in 2012 by developers Ella Mbewe, Regina Mtonga, and Chisenga Muyoya, seeks to “level the playing field for women” in ICT and bridge the gendered digital divide. Some of their activities include a mapping project of all ICT women’s organizations in Africa in order to achieve their goal of building a Pan-African Women in Technology Network.

The Asikana Network seeks to improve girls’ access to technology through outreach programs in high schools and universities. One of their other main objectives is to build a continent-wide support network for women in ICT professions. According to co-founder Ella Mbewe, ICT is still considered a male-dominated field and women often have to work twice as hard and be extremely resilient in order to be successful. In her words, “we aim to change perceptions and behavior towards women in ICT and to level the playing field for those young women who come behind us.” 

The Asikana Network, though small, is making important progress in increasing women and girls’ access to technology in Africa and bridging the gender gap at the professional level. These women are using technology to change cultural perceptions and improve the quality of life of their peers. Perhaps they can serve as an example for ICT4D professionals looking to break down more barriers to access to technology. 

You can check out the Asikana Network’s Facebook page or some more info about their current work online. 

Cyber Crime; A threat to Zambia’s economy and the MDGs

A recent report in Zambia Daily Mail “Cyber Crime: a Threat to Economies” connects te rise of internet and globalization to the rise of cyber crime throughout the world. This growing surge pose a global threat, affecting developed as well as developing countries including Zambia. Zambia’s population frequently uses  email, chat rooms, social networks, and other forms of global communication. This opens the doors to cyber crimes. A report published by the Global security Agenda states the cyber threats use computer networks to harm the reputation of individuals or organizations and include issues such as copyright infringement, fraud, hacking, account thefts, identity thefts, computer viruses, unsolicited mail known as spam, and other on-line crimes. They report that cyber crime is responsible for loses of more than US$105 billion worldwide annually.

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In Zambia, the Police Service’s Cyber Security Bureau (CSB) arrested a Lusaka resident while his Australian accomplice bolted after stealing US$ 235,000 from people who wanted to buy cars on-line in 2010. The Deputy commissioner of Police at the time responsible for ICT, Solomen Jere, said the suspects had been stealing large amounts of money from un-knowing online car buyers. This was done using false advertisements on the internet inviting people to buy cars online. Other cyber scandals in Zambia include those who have fallen victims to fraudsters using exchanges of emails and phones calls to swindle money, claiming there were jobs or other offers available, demanding bank account numbers and other personal information. Another common crime involves “sexting”. This practice, very popular among the younger population and part of the problem is that once the picture is sent, they lose control  and the pictures go viral on the Internet. As a result scholarships and other opportunities have been lost. Kids are also often used as middle men, to access private computers and accounts.

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In Zambia, the authorities say US$582,000 has been set aside for combating online criminal activities. Further steps are being taken by partners with the countries newly established partnership with International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to establish a watch and warn centre with a computer system which will regulate mail activities on the internet. Such actions have been seen on a regional level as well, with the South African Development Community (SADC) meeting to develop a harmonised legal framework, combining the ideas of  Botswana, Mauritius, South Africa and Zambia. The goal is to allow for continued use of ICTs to reach the millenium Development goal, with out enabling the threat of Cyber Crime to get in the way.

Website Connects Women and ICTs in Africa

In Thursday’s class we discussed the role of gender in ICTs and development. In the developing world, men have far more access to ICTs than women. Women’s unequal access to ICTs leads to marginalization and prevents women from reaching their full potential. The Asikana Network aims to erase this divide. This group empowers African women to utilize ICTs by connecting and training women throughout the continent. Their main website allows women to comment about ICT projects, share ideas, and help each other solve problems. The website can be accessed here.

In addition to their blog, the Asikana Network has a Facebook page and Twitter account: @AsikanaNetwork. These pages provide information on signing up for technology training courses and mapping ICT projects. The Asikana network is based in Zambia but includes members throughout Africa. To see a map of participating organizations, click here.



Ken Banks: Social Innovator and Founder of Frontline SMS

Ken Banks is a technological and social innovator working at the nexus of technology, anthropology and conservation. He founded Kiwanja.net in 2005, an organization dedicated to guiding NGOs in how to appropriately incorporate technology into their missions, working specifically with mobile technologies. He’s been a techie before anything else – learning how to code at 14 he obtained a hobby which, later in life, helped him land more jobs than did his business experience in college. He began doing non-profit work in Zambia after signing up for a volunteer gig as a young man, and subsequently finding that his interests were at home in this part of the world.

Kiwanja, since its inception, has been wildly successful. They have spearheaded projects for huge biodiversity conservation organizations like Flora & Fauna International and UNEP; in addition they’ve partnered up with Grameen Technology Centre. Most notably they developed Frontline SMS, a free open-source software used by a number of non-profits to collect and disseminate information via SMS messaging. Banks believes that the power of mobile phones is “ubiquitous”, hence why he was so geared toward a software that does not require internet connection and is centered around the mobile phone.

Banks has won countless internationally-recognized awards for his efforts since Kiwanja. As of now he spends most of his working time in his home town in England, but travels frequently as a Fellow Faculty of Pop!Tech in Camden, ME, and as a National Geographic “Emerging Explorer”, just to name a few of his most recently-acquired epithets.

What I found particularly interesting, which I’ve mentioned in a previous blog-post, is Banks’ opinion of the message being sent toward “innovators-to-be”. He believes that what they truly want to hear about are the motivations, the greater goals behind the work, and that all too often educators in the field focus too much on the metrics, logistics, etc. While I wonder if this is appropriate, I’m pleased to learn that professionals in the field are not weary of “the big dreams” that young adults have. Usually I hear about how these are generally not well-thought-out, and rightfully so! It was, nevertheless, surprising to me to learn that the first opinion he has of young dreamers is the opposite of jaded.

Some useful links and videos relating to Ken Banks:


Ken Banks Twitter
Ken Banks at Pop!Tech Video

“A Bottle of Beer Inspires Emerging Explorer Ken Banks to Create an Innovative Computer Software Program”