PLANS to set up a computer assembly plant in Lusaka this year is a long overdue move which deserves commendation and support from all stakeholders.
Information Communication Technology (ICT) is a major engine for growth and job creation, and also as an agent of social change.
It is therefore timely that the Government is planning to invest heavily in world-class ICT infrastructure as announced by President Michael Sata yesterday.
The ICT revolution is the surest way to speedy economic and sustainable development as can be seen from countries such as Malaysia, India and China.
ICT has proved to be a tool to reckon with in the named countries which have recorded tremendous economic growth and created massive employment opportunities for the citizens.
Zambia too can jump on this bandwagon to embrace ICT to the fullest by growing the industry, in this case, setting up plants to manufacture ICT products such as computers.
The country can no longer continue relying on imported ICT goods when it is endowed with abundant natural resources which can facilitate the thriving ICT industry.
In this day and era, all sectors of the economy are dependent on ICT.
ICT is a crucial enabler in helping the manufacturing services and agriculture sectors enhance productivity, efficiency and value in an increasingly competitive global environment.
Government’s vision of industrialisation will only be achieved when the country has a strong ICT hub or base from which it can tap knowledge and services.
It is envisaged that the step taken by the Government to set up the computer assembly plant in Lusaka is the first one in trying to strengthen this very important component of ICT.
A number of positives are expected to be recorded such as cheaper ICT products and more importantly more jobs would be created.
The other thing that needs to be done is to ensure that the ICT revolution is also rolled out to all sectors of the economy on a large scale.
Much of the technology has been invested in the mining sector, leaving out others such as agriculture, education and health.
In the agriculture sector, ICT can play a pivotal role when well rolled out, especially to the rural areas.
The Internet, for instance, has the power to inform the world of issues and ideas that otherwise would be suppressed or overlooked.
Everybody can share information and technical skills anywhere as long as there is internet. For example, a farmer can find the cause of a nasty fungus plaguing his fields.
In a similar way, a medical specialist in the rural areas could get advice from doctors at the world’s most advanced medical institutions.
Engineers in the villages could also obtain information and advice to take on the most sophisticated projects via internet.
Villages or rural areas could participate in a global forum where the development successes could be shared. No longer will they have to wait, often times months, to receive such information through post or courier.
Ultimately, a good investment in ICT would have spillover effects which will benefit the country in future.
In preparation for this era, it is important that Government relooks at the way pupils and students are trained.
Their training should be aligned in a manner that supports science and mathematics and this is what is being done by the Government.
Education Minister John Phiri is on record as having said that Government was working on programmes which will promote science and mathematics in schools.
This will create a reservoir from where future scientists, engineers and technicians can be ploughed from and be able to run the industry effectively.
This resolve has further been strengthened by the Zambia Information Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) which has with effect from December 2013, completed setting up computer laboratories in 47 public colleges and 150 secondary and primary schools.
The exercise will no doubt contribute to having a generation which will embrace ICT as a vehicle for economic growth.