Zambia’s Macha Hospital is set to overcome the sort of rural connectivity problems that bedevil other countries in Africa, writes Balancing Act’s Zambia correspondent Timothy Kasonde Kasolo.

Macha hospital is in one of the areas in the rural Zambia that has access to ICT infrastructure supported by the Macha Malaria Institute at Macha (MIAM), Churches Health Association of Zambia (CHAZ) and LinkNet.

“It’s a challenge first of all to get to Macha Hospital, the road infrastructure is bad but with determination we have managed to put the ICT infrastructure at Macha,” says project director Gertjan Vans tam.

Vans tam explained that communication to Macha was had been very limited. Until 2004  there had been no fixed or mobile network and few computers in this rural settlement. The main source of communications was an unreliable e-mail link via HF-radio (300 b/s) and a VHF radio link with Choma for voice messages. “The area has had its own constraints in as far as it is concerned because of rural settings, bad roads, limited funding that is equivalent less than a car and no ICT knowledge and expertise,” Vans tam said.

However Vans tam explained that to establish a modern telecenter at Macha faced challenges therefore it was inevitable to involve all stakeholders, Bishop of the church, Chief of the area, Collaboration and capacity sharing by Institutions (primarily health and education), Community acceptance, Government (licensing), Local thrust and empowerment, Training of local people in ICT that took over one year, Study and testing of solutions, Local content (web sites), computer literacy, ICT implementation to benefit all (health, education, community).

He said that the now the telecentre in Macha is operational using a Local Area Network (LAN) and distributed Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) with more than 75 users. Vans tam also observed that they installed two Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs) with diverse routing, network servers that offers two services for Mail (including IMAP, web mail), DHCP, DNS with more than three domains, Content Filtering (Spam), Proxy, Firewall, Virus scanning, FTP, File sharing, Network printing, web server with more than ten websites.

He said that there are now 100 computers and the usage is growing rapidly. Apart from that they have a Content Management (Blogging) service, Network and System Management, Traffic prioritisation and SQL database.

Other services being offered including community centre, computer workshop, trained Information Technology experts in hardware, network, web design, application programming and training.

He added that they were considering expanding the LAN and WLAN in whole hospital that includes administration, laboratory, pharmacy, theatre, and wards.

“ We have plans to expand WLAN to QoS and Least Cost Routing Implementation of dedicated applications such as tele-health, training, data collection and data mining, fault ticketing, information exchange, communications, scheduling and network management,” Vans tam added.

He says there have been further support for ICT implementations in other rural areas and the development of LinkNet Centre of Experience campus, rural ICT implementations, training, and exchanges.