PEOPLE POWER

Zambia 2015 | TELECOMS, IT & MEDIA | FOCUS: SMART ZAMBIA

New technologies are bringing market information to remote areas and boosting development in unprecedented ways.

The government of Zambia has understood the power of ICT to create economic opportunities and have become involved in two major ICT projects for 2015: the Digital Migration Project and Smart Zambia. The country moved from analogue terrestrial television to digital terrestrial television in June 2015, some time behind most of the rest of the world. While analog television uses one frequency per program channel, digital television allows multiple program channels with only one frequency. This change improves efficiency and lowers the costs of transmission. Besides increasing capacity, digital television broadcasts at a higher quality and will allow Zambian viewers to make us of different platforms such as teletext and online programming guides. According the website of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services, this will also bring access to e-governance and e-commerce to the population of Zambia through their televisions.

In conversation with TBY, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting services, the Hon. Chishimba Kambwili, stated that this is the most important project under his ministry. The first phase has just finished with an investment of $9 million, while for the financing of the second and third phases the government has approached Exim Bank of China, which has already given the green light to the investment.

For people such as Owas Ray Mwape, Actor, Director and Film Producer of Owas Crystal films, digital migration will boost television production: “Due of digital migration, there will be many more productions made each year. For starters, it will require considerable trial and error to determine which content becomes successful, and which is not. Most people now working in production houses are shooting series and soaps, but the industry is definitely set to develop beyond this. It is also encouraging to note that certain corporations are seeking out local for their own TV networks.”

The other main project is Smart Zambia Phase I. This project includes the setting up of a national data center and an email system. To improve not only the infrastructure but also ICT literacy, the government will invest in ICT education with first-class ICT schools or CT Talent Training centers. The Smart Zambia project also includes a Tele presence system, a unified communication system, and maintenance for the national ICT backbone.

To finance this project, the cabinet approved a $65.5 million loan from Exim Bank. In March 2014, during a visit to China in which President Lungu signed the financing agreement. This project is expected to be carried out by Huawei. In a TBY interview, Hon. Yamfwa D. Mukanga, MP Cabinet Minister, Government Chief Whip, and Minister of Transport, Works, Supply, and Communication, said that this project will cut costs and time, rendering the government more efficient and transparent.

In addition the large sum required to finance this project, China is heavily investing in Zambia. Over the past year, Chinese cooperation has guaranteed more than $1.5 billion for Zambia. This amount will be broken down to support several projects in different sectors of the economy including healthcare, education, and transport.

Steve Ballmer, ex-CEO of Microsoft and current owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, once said that, “the number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.” It seems that the government of Zambia is on the right track to empower its people.