—-Information Minister, Kennedy Sakeni, says Zambia has in the last ten years seen an expansion in the use of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), which has enabled free flow of information in the country.
Mr Sakeni says even people living in far flung areas, despite the geographical location in Zambia, are accessing the ICTs devices such as the mobile phones and the internet through which they exchange information and ideas.
The minister said this during an interview with ZANIS at the on-going World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) which is taking place in Geneva, Switzerland.
He, however, observed that Government will need to do more to ensure that the majority of its citizenry accesses the facility for enhanced development.
He pointed out that the lack of accessibility of ICTs by some members of the public is Government’s biggest challenge.
Mr Sakeni added that this is because of the cost involved and the reliability in ensuring the widespread of ICTs in the country.
“We rely on mobile broadband in most cases. That is the easiest access to ICTs,” he noted.
In addressing some of these challenges, Government has already done more than 4, 000 kilometres of fiber optic connections in the country.
The minister stressed that out of the target of 10, 000 kilometres, Government has managed to connect the fiber optic to all the 10 provincial centres in the country.
He further explained that Government is implementing the exercise with ZAMTEL and Zesco and will in the next few years be extended to the districts.
“Zambia is a very vast country and our populations are scattered and we cannot roll out a thousand kilometers within a short time.
In the area of Education and its impact on the use of ICTs, the minister expressed sadness describing illiteracy as one factor that is still affecting the diffusion of ICTs in many developing countries, Zambia inclusive.
According to Mr Sakeni, ICTs in promoting education are an appropriate solution to achieving the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of 2015 in reducing poverty, increasing access to health and education and also ensuring environmental sustainability and the promotion of gender equality.
He stated that Zambia was working towards achieving the increased education services in the country.
“The best method you are supposed to use is spread out education through the ICTs. Somebody who has no money to go to university, for example, can easily learn his programmes using internet,“ he observed.
On the business community’s support as regards ICTs, Mr Sakeni challenged the business community to double their efforts in responding favourably as Government was already providing an enabling environment to ensure ICTs were rolled out to rural areas as well.
And commenting whether the World Summit on the Information Society is necessary for Zambia’s future, the minister responded that the process was very necessary as it gives a coordinated approach towards the growing information society.
Despite ITU member states being different economically, WSIS helps to set targets to which most countries work towards, at the same pace, which allows for the enhancement of an information society.
Other countries such as the United Kingdom, during the ministerial round table, observed that in the last ten years, the information society has had great impact on health, government delivery services, education, business, agriculture and transport among others in the daily lives of the people.
Djibouti reported that the lack of education like other countries remained a biggest problem for that country while Rwanda stressed the need for the world to provide leadership if ICTs were to be appreciated and attained.
During the Ministerial Round Table at the World Summit on the Information Society, ministers reviewed how the summit has fared in the last ten years.
The Ministerial Round Table is an opportunity that allows all ministers to share their countries’ experiences with reference to activities carried out in line with the implementation of the WSIS outcomes.
Meanwhile, Mr Sakeni has expressed concern over people that abuse the internet for wrongful activities.
He said as more people get connected and access the various services such as money transfers, the practice of cyber security is also on the increase as criminals and terrorists are abusing the facility.
The minister advised the consumers to use the ICTs for progressive purposes such as the exchange of information if development is to prevail.
And in another development, Mr Sakeni has told RESEAU TELECOM NETWORK, a Cameroonian publication, in an interview, that Zambia was making progress in shifting from analogue to digital terrestrial television.
He explained that though the exercise is a financial challenge, Zambia cannot afford to remain behind as it is part of the global world.
Among the countries present at the WSIS are Rwanda, Togo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville, Senegal, Bahrain, United States, United Kingdom, Palestine, Poland, Thailand, Japan, Iran and Afghanistan.
Others include Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Mexico, Costa Rica, Cameroon, India, and Zambia.