By NATASHE MUSUNSE –
ON 21st July, the Zambian Information and Communications Authority (ZICTA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Technology and Science, Bank of Zambia (BoZ) and Zambia Statistics Agency (ZAMSTATS) hosted the launch of 2022 National Survey on ICT’s Access and Usage.
The launch looked at the usage and access of ICTs from a household and individual level.
This report is a result of the technical and financial contribution of ZamStats and Bank of Zambia, with Bank of Zambia critical at the digital financial inclusion and ZamStats helping in designing, collection and analysis of data.
The Ministry of Technology and Science was crucial in providing policy insight and guidelines.
This the fourth survey undertaken with the first in 2013, second in 2015, third in 2018 and the fourth coming four years after because of corona virus disruptions.
As a result, the report contains information concerning the access and usage of ICTs digital technologies, online risks and mitigation, issues such as digital financial services and highlights challenges related to access of internet services.
Government based on the report will have a basis to make data driven evidence-based decisions.
However, it is not limited to government as industries are also able to use this data to identify gaps and gain insight on how to provide solutions.
The survey covers a plethora of topics able to aid many in attaining evidence-based decisions and assist in formulating strategies that will be helpful to the economy and global community.
ZAMSTATS Statistician General Mulenga J. Musepa said the world today is characterized by ever increasing and ever-changing data demands.
“The extent to which developing countries are going to develop largely depends on the use of evidence to make decisions, with this in mind the Zambian government passed an act number 13 of 2018, known as Statistics Act,” Mr Musepa said.
ZamStats was formed as an effort to try and resolve the various data challenges that impede faster and effective decision making.
The functions of ZAMSATS are to develop a well-coordinated and integrated national statistical system and promote production of quality statistics, understanding and use.
Mr Musepa emphasized that the issue of use is important because often in the developing world, statistics collected are not used in policy formulation and making of critical decisions.
“Therefore, I would like to make an appeal that the data in the report to be presented must be put to good use,” he said.
“The celebration will only come once we are able to use the statistics to the betterment of the Zambian people and also show value for the cost of money spent by government on undertaking such a survey.”
ZAMSTATS is the sole designated entity responsible for the publication of official statistics.
“In line with this act ZAMSTATs in collaboration with a number of statistics agencies did develop what is known as the national strategy for development of statistics 2023 to 2028, soon to be launched,” he said.
Mr Musepa said the aim was for five-year actions that help bring a better response to statistical demands required to make day to day decisions, stressing the need to close the gap between dissemination and use.
He also added that often dissemination of these publications is done, but they are ignored when it comes to use of data in the reports, which is important for the country to move forward.
“Another gap to note is that most developing countries can identify numbers but are still not equipped on what to do with those numbers and that is what needs to be addressed,” he said.
He made a recollection of his time spent in the Ministry of Finance, saying one thing that they faced difficulty in at the end of the year was the formulation of progress reports on each sector.
“This was because several sectors would have no data on which to make an assessment, therefore making the lives of our principles difficult as they had to use gut feeling or what was heard to make decisions, which leads to missing the target,” he recollected.
Even as 2024 budget submissions are about to begin, he urges various sectors, ministries, departments and provinces to apply part of the resources allocated for the operations in collection of data statistics.
“That is the only way that will be able to assess whether the intervention programs implemented are having an impact and whether there is movement towards intended target,” he said.
“If we do not have numbers in terms of planning, it will be exceedingly difficult for us. If you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it.”
He added: “The Zambian government would like to establish Zambia as a Knowledge Society, based on statistical foundation for making decisions, either at government, non-government or at personal level.”
Representing Deputy Governor Operations Francis Chipimo, Director of Payment System at BOZ, Mirriam Kamuza, thanked ZICTA for extending a request to collaborate with the central bank.
She highlighted the impressive progress by mentioning issues like the increase in percentage of households with at least one member who uses internet as well as the increase in percentage of individuals using internet, which shows the rise of digital connectivity in the population.
She added that this also reflected the efforts of the various stakeholders in promoting digital inclusion.
“The findings allow us to gain a deeper understanding that provides insight into the state of ICT adoption in this country and shed light on the opportunities, challenges and risks associated in this dynamic space,” she said.
She gave an example of higher levels of internet penetration in urban areas as compared to rural areas and limited skills that prevent users from receiving the full benefit of internet access.
“As Bank of Zambia, we are interested in the implication of this survey on our monetary policy for financial stability, financial inclusion and for economic development,” she said.
“We have been actively promoting a regulatory framework that fosters innovation, while balancing risks and benefits. Therefore, leveling the playing field for new entrants and incumbents into the space,” she added.
She also mentioned the introduction of initiatives that promote financial education, digital literacy and consumer empowerment like the go cashless campaign.
“We remain willing to work with our partners and fellow stakeholders to promote the ecosystem,” she concluded.
Minister of Technology and Science, Honorable Felix Mutati said the journey embarked on is straightforward and this journey begins with data, which will transition to knowledge that is used to gain insights that must in the end deliver wisdom.
“Today’s journey is not purely about data but must be used to attain wisdom. Simply put we must scratch where it itches, that is the definition of wisdom,” he said.
“For us to deliver a digitally inclusive economy we must be able to deliver digital benefits and to do that those within government must be digitally alert, working within government systems, government to citizens and government to business. The importance is to be digitally connected,” he said.
He mentioned that insight gained from the survey shows that the wisdom we must have to deliver should involve innovation.
“We must have a combination of towers, low orbit satellites to deliver digital benefits. We must employ digital financial inclusion which will come from the developing of skills and literacy. We need to engage innovators and entrepreneurs,” he said.
He made mention of the 3 I’s which are Innovation, Incentives and Investment.
He added that innovation involved getting ZICTA, ZAMSTAT and BOZ to collaborate to produce an informative report, on which he commended all involved.
“From the government perspective we answer to the incentives in that government has committed itself to provide services like social cash transfer and youth development fund. There is no greater incentive than telling people they can receive their money if they are digitally connected,” he said.
He gave an example of the happenings during the introduction of CDF, where cooperatives were advised to go online. The incentive was for our people to use digital platforms.
“We have ensured that systems are inter-operative from mobile platforms to banks, making it easy for transactions to flow seamlessly. Therefore, reducing the cost of the transaction and delivering convenience to the citizen,” he said.
He commented on the 87.3 per cent usage of social media and asked that ZICTA and ZAMSTART identify progressive use of social media and destructive use of the media.
“With regards to financial inclusion, we are at 73.1 per cent which is high. The only reason is because the Zambian using digital platforms is not able to say, ‘Thank you I have received’ or ‘Thank you, Zangena’. A population of 19 million having transactions of 1.6 billion tells a story,” hesaid.
He was saddened that 44 per cent of users were not aware of the risks that come with internet use and advises that the reason they are not aware be investigated.
He shared that despite the recorded high ownership of devices, cost remains a barrier in access to appropriate devices.
“There is a need to improve on service delivery and address the lack of knowledge regarding use and access to internet,” he said.
He stated the importance this report had on the journey to wisdom by saying this report helps government to realign its investment journey in terms of digital infrastructure and appropriate technologies.
“The report delivers on the three I’s. Innovation through collaboration of three key institutions, incentives through defining benefits of the ultimate customer (the citizen) and assisting proper deployment of government resource including that of the private sector, thereby ensuring coverage, quality of service and quality of experience,” he concluded.