For the majority of Zambians, access to information is mainly by way of physical means such as libraries, postal communications and print media. However, radio and TV are some of the most popular means of access to information; though tv despite being the most attractive media has very limited coverage across the country. Equally important, access
to information via networked systems such as the Internet and mobile phones is very limited mainly due to non-availability of telecommunications infrastructure and high access costs for many consumers.
Postal and Courier Services
Postal and Courier Services are mainly provided by ZAMPOST. The Corporation covers the country through a network of about 116 Post Offices, 64 Sub-Post Offices and 55 Postal Agencies. A large percentage of the 72 districts have an operational post office. In addition, there are private courier services, which are concentrated along the Livingstone-Copperbelt corridor for delivery of parcels. However, some private courier operators now service provincial centres as well.
There are cafés and business bureaus offering telephone, Email/Internet access in major urban centres and a few in rural towns. Currently, there are about 300 licensed telecenters across the country by 2004 against 108 in the year 2000. However, a larger percentage is along the line of rail. This is mainly due to the relatively good telecommunication infrastructure, low capital and operation costs coupled with the high number of potential customers.
The Ministry of Education operates the largest number of public libraries through the Zambia Library Service. Currently, there are 6 major public libraries across the country covering at least six of the nine provincial centres. The Copperbelt University, Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation and UNZA have adequate libraries facilities in comparison to other libraries across the country. Various other private libraries also exist in schools and colleges offering opportunities for access to information. Local authorities mainly run community libraries as part of the public service though most of them need urgent attention. In general, public libraries are in a dilapidated state, normally equipped with outdated reading materials and are urban centred in most cases. Most of the materials are imported with little local content and knowledge resources. The process of equipping public libraries managed by the Zambia Library Service with ICT tools including Internet connectivity has started. However, the installed capacity needs to be increased in terms of hardware and Internet bandwidth. The main library at UNZA has reached advanced levels in integrating ICTs as part of the services to the university community and the general public. On the other hand, the national Archives is one source of political, social and economic information, particularly historical perspectives about Zambia which forms good background on the geo-political development agenda of the country. Access to such information by the public is very limited both in physical and electronic forms.
Broadcasting in Zambia dates back to 1941 when the colonial government opened a radio station in Lusaka. Until after the re-introduction of multi-party politics in 1991, radio and TV broadcasting was a preserve of the state, either as a Government department or as a statutory body. However, the enactment of the following laws to facilitate the liberalisation of the media industry has opened new avenues for radio and TV services across the country:
- Radio Communications Act of 1994
- Independent Broadcasting Authority Act of 2002
- ZNBC (Amendment) Act of 2002
The above legislation together with the Zambia National Broadcasting (ZNBC) Act of 1987 and the ZNBC Licensing Regulations (1993) provide for the legal and regulatory framework for the broadcasting sub-sector in Zambia. The Independent Broadcasting Act also establishes the Independent Broadcasting Authority as the regulator for the broadcasting sub-sector. However, the regulatory agency is not yet functional.
Since 1994, Zambia has made significant advances in liberalising the airwaves thus allowing private sector participation in the sub-sector. This has resulted in the opening of a number of commercial and community radio stations. There is at least one (1) community radio station and ZNBC FM Transmission in each province. Three TV broadcasting stations are operational, namely; ZNBC, Trinity Broadcasting and Muvi TV. On the other hand MultiChoice Zambia, part of the pan- African pay TV Company is providing subscription based Satellite TV services across the country while CASAT also
provides pay cable TV services in Lusaka. On the other front, the convergence of technologies and markets has created opportunities such as Internet radio broadcasting, which is becoming popular among local commercial radio stations thus reaching the entire world with very minimum costs. While this situation expands opportunities in the ICT sector, the current regulatory framework in telecommunications and broadcasting sub-sectors are slowly becoming inadequate in addressing new challenges arising from convergence of services.
Some of the challenges include:
- Non-availability of ICT tools and services especially in rural and underserved urban areas;
- High cost of access to ICT tools and services whenever available;
- Inadequate local content to support cultural promotion and traditional Knowledge development;
- Limited coverage of electronic media across the country;
- The role of ZNBC as the national broadcaster with respect to information delivery to the General public amidst liberalised airwaves needs clarity to ensure, responsibilities and equity;
- The regulation of Internet Telephony (VoIP) and Broadcasting amidst the proliferation of Multimedia technologies and Internet.