State keen on ICTs in national development

MTN Zambia
MTN Zambia chief executive officer Abdul Ismail handed over the cheque FAZ acting general secretary Sam Phiri in Lusaka
INFORMATION and Communications Technology (ICT) is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and is changing technologies, business models and work relations.

It is widely and increasingly regarded as the fourth factor of production after land, labour and capital.
Government has recognised this fact and focuses on three levels namely, connectivity, capacity and content.
The three Cs have significant investments which occurred in the mobile communications segment through the active roll-out of equipment and services around the country.
Prior to the 1990s, the sub-sector only covered communications in its traditional sense which included telecommunications and postal services.
However, the convergence of technologies has changed the landscape of the communications industry worldwide.
Since the early 1990s, developments in telecommunications and information technology, which was referred to as computer science, and broadcasting having improved and overlapped such that currently the two have converged through the internet.
The ICT sub-sector is gaining prominence with the rapid technological advancements that have been experienced world-wide for almost two decades.
Up to the mid-1990s, the telecommunications sub-sector in Zambia was characterised by one firm, Posts and Telecommunications Corporation (PTC).
In 1994, the sector was liberalised to encourage private sector participation in the provision of telecommunications and postal services.
However, PTC was split into two public companies namely Zambia Postal Services Corporation (ZAMPOST) and Zambia Telecommunications Company Limited (ZAMTEL).
The sector recorded an increase in local and foreign investment since the liberalisation programme started.
Currently, there are three operators in the mobile phones segment namely Airtel Zambia, MTN Zambia and CELLZ.
Since 1991, the policy of the Government was to provide an enabling environment for private sector participation in the provision of goods and services.
In addition, in 1994 a National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy was put in place whose thrust was to integrate ICT for sustainable national development and poverty reduction.
Minister of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications Yamfwa Mukanga said the newly installed MTN Zambia Base Transceiver Station at Chikando Primary School of Luangeni Constituency will significantly contribute to improvement of communication.
He said Government was determined to ensure that reliable ICT infrastructure and services are available in all parts of the country at affordable rates to support the various socio-economic development activities.
Mr Mukanga said that the country has recorded significant growth in the ICT sector particularly in mobile communication which has grown from 7,252,693 in 2011 to 10,666,580 mobile users in 2013 in the last two years.
He said the internet has registered tremendous growth from 816,000 users in 2011 to over 2,626,840 internet users in 2013.
“This reflects Government’s commitment to uplifting the social and economic well-being of the people in all parts of the country,” he said.
Mr Mukanga, however, said the growth in ICT sector has been skewed to urban areas leaving out rural and scarcely populated areas hence the need to change the status quo.
He said the biased situation of ICT penetration has limited the pace of development interventions considering the multiplier effect that the sector has on the development of other sectors of the economy.
Mr Mukanga said the Government was expecting that rural population, once connected, would become well-informed and become part of the larger information society.
He said the Government would ensure that ICT infrastructure and services were equitably distributed, available to, and affordable for the greatest possible proportion of population.
Mr Mukanga said the Government would always encourage and promote private investment.
MTN Zambia chief executive officer Abdul Ismail said the company was committed to providing access for all, especially in rural Zambia.
Mr Ismail said the launched MTN Base Transceiver Station was expected to benefit over 3,000 people.
MTN Zambia is part of the MTN group, a multi-national telecommunications company with a footprint in 22 countries in Africa and the Middle East.
Initially, the company started as an exclusive GSM network providing voice and short message system (SMS) services while the portfolio has grown to include voice which is both local and international.
It started its operations in Zambia in 2005 after acquiring the then Telecel and the company is a leading communications solutions provider covering all the 10 provinces in Zambia and enjoying 39 per cent market share as at June 2012.
Mr Ismail said MTN Zambia was continuously upgrading and expanding its network to ensure wider coverage across the country.
He said the commissioned site was part of the current MTN Zambia network expansion programme, which had reached an advanced stage.
He explained that under the current expansion phase, MTN was erecting over 100 additional 3G sites and 2G sites across the country by the end of 2014.
“The project is expected to see MTN increase its network coverage and capacity in various towns and cities.
“Our network expansion programme is on-going as we strive to make a positive difference in our people’s lives through the provision of quality and affordable communications solutions for all,” Mr Ismail said.
He said MTN Zambia was ready for the Universal Access to roll out its services which ZICTA wants to ensure was accessible in un-served and under-served areas.
Luangeni Member of Parliament and Deputy Minister of Energy Charles Zulu said the launch of the MTN Zambia Base Transceiver Station in the area would improve the individual livelihoods, community prosperity, and achievement of the national development.
Mr Zulu said MTN Zambia had shown that it was committed to uplifting the living standards of the rural populace.