COVERING THE NATION

Zambia 2017 | IT, TELECOMS & MEDIA | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Margaret K. Chalwe-Mudenda, Director General of Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA), on new projects, the ZNDC, and expectations for the year ahead.

Margaret K. Chalwe-Mudenda
BIOGRAPHY
Margaret K. Chalwe-Mudenda has held the position of the Director General of the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) since 2010. She also serves on several boards at both national and international levels. She is a lawyer by profession with over 20 years of experience and holds a bachelor of laws degree, a postgraduate diploma in legislative drafting, as well as a master’s degree in law. Under her tenure, she championed and launched the Connecting Learning Institutions Project, which has been providing electronic communication systems including computer laboratories as well as optic fiber networks to public universities, colleges, and secondary schools, thus promoting e-learning and creating a platform for e-government services.

What recent projects has ZICTA launched in Zambia?

ZICTA has been the government's implementing partner for a few years now. Following the revision of the ICT Act in 2009, our mandate expanded and we were able to help the government more actively implement some of its developmental projects in the ICT sector. From 2011, we started our drive to facilitate universal access, rolling out connectivity to underserved areas. Between 2012 and 2014, we installed GeoSIM sites in rural areas. Over the total period, we installed 204 towers that initially provided communication for 400,000 people, and has since generated over 1 million web subscribers. Another recent project is the national addressing project. In Zambia, we have witnessed massive population growth in the last 20 years. Many smaller municipalities began expanding rapidly, with urban areas mushrooming across the country. However, this was accompanied by a lack of corresponding organization and town planning. The Ministry of Lands had one record while the city council had another; there was no communication or overlap between the two systems. We realized this was not a desirable situation, and therefore went to UPU and were given guidelines on how to implement a national addressing program. Through universal access we reviewed the existing numbering system, coming up with a new, logical way of numbering houses and naming streets. We carried out this initiative in high-density as well as low-density areas, and have broken records as the first country to provide such a system in villages in Africa.

What will be the impact of the Zambia National Data Centre (ZNDC) and what services will it provide for shareholders?

The country did not have a national data center, and we realized this could provide vital services for the public and private sectors. We hope it will attract institutions to store their main databases at the ZNDC and offer backup to ensure business continuity. The center is being built and developed to tier-three standard, and therefore can provide globally competitive services for both the public and private sectors. To attract these business, we need to assure people that the system is highly secure. We were also acutely aware that the project would have to be commercially viable from the beginning. There are three sites located across the country, and for us to sustain global standards and best practice in all of these sites, we cannot afford to house information for free. We are working closely with Huawei, because it has the business expertise in this area. We have engaged other partners that can help us grow commercially as this is something new for us and capacity will not appear overnight. Our people are being trained and have been trained; however, implementing such a world-class initiative, and a first for Zambia, means we require time to develop and mature our capacity.

What future initiatives does ZICTA have planned for 2017?

We have been working tirelessly to ensure ICT literacy levels are boosted across the nation. We want to ensure our development is aligned with the goals set by the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA). WITSA tasked its directors with connecting all villages and schools to the web by 2015. In the last decade or so, the UN has highlighted that ICT access is a human right. We began a project to provide communities with access through schools, setting up ICT labs and ensuring that all tertiary education facilities had a connection. Since then, we have managed to set up connectivity at three public institutions, 69 colleges and universities, and about 200 schools, both primary and secondary. We are also constructing a computer assembly plant before the year ends. We hope these developments will inspire children who are coding software in class to see that there is a viable market and a future in the sector. Secondly we are working on setting up a standards lab in order to validate the standards of our equipment.