Zambia, Tanzania missing out on benefits of ICT


Although Africa is experiencing tremendous growth in the telecom sector, Zambia and Tanzania are not among countries that are fully benefiting from investments, according to ICT experts.

Zambia and Tanzania have over the past 10 years experienced heavy investment in the telecom sector, but the two countries have not been able to generate national income from the ICT sector due to restrictive regulatory policies and lack of a clear implementation framework and strategy.

The regulatory regime and the lack of a legal framework for the national ICT sector has undermined major investments in telecom in Zambia, according to Computer Society of Zambia President Collins Chinyama. In Tanzania, the lack of an agency that protects the interest of consumers and e-commerce providers is costing the country national income from the telecom sector despite the country having many service providers, according to Mmasi Raphael, director of information and Documentation at the Commission for Science and Technology.

Chinyama said Zambia was the second country in Africa to embrace ICT but now the nation is not even among the top 30 countries on the continent in terms of IT revenue, with countries like Mauritius, Kenya and Rwanda tapping ICT for national income generation.

Neither Zambia nor Tanzania have organizations such as trade groups to regulate and coordinate ICT professionals and ICT firms and to provide a legal and regulatory framework for the sector. The inability of the Zambian government to optimize the use of its available resources for ICT, Chinyama said, has led to a number of government projects, such as a voting system, not being implemented.

In addition, the Zambian government has been focusing on telecommunication, leaving out the broader spectrum of ICT. "Software skills that help in the creation of information, processing of information, storage of information, and analysis of the information and communication of information have not been addressed," Chinyama said in a presentation to the ministry of communications and Transport last week.

Chinyama said ICT skills required in industry for commerce, business innovations, business process outsourcing, e-Tourism, E-Health have also not been addressed.

The Computer Society of Zambia, Chinyama said, has not been able to flex its muscle in the telecom sector because it has not been given powers by the Zambian government, resulting in a poorly coordinated approach toward technical advisory services. The Zambian government is dragging its feet in establishing a bill to enforce and regulate codes of conduct and professional standards in the ICT sector in Zambia, he said.

The two countries launched their national ICT policies in 2003 and 2005, respectively, with a view of developing and generating national income. but policy has not been implemented due in part to a lack of professional bodies.

"Lack of national ICT coordinating body is a biggest challenge in the development of the sector because the proposed body is supposed to assume the regulatory role to create a level playing field in the fastest growing industry," Raphael said.

ComputerWorld Zambia