The ICT sector is represented by a four-tier system, namely policymaking, legal and regulatory framework, operators and consumers (end users).
The Policy making machinery in the country is an important component shaping the ICT industry. Given the crosscutting nature of ICT, all line ministries, legislators, traditional leaders, co-operating partners, public sector, private sector, civil society and individuals are key stakeholders to the policy making process. However, with respect to the ICT Portfolio, the Ministry of Communications and Transport is charged with the responsibility of setting the policy direction for the industry and country at large taking into account stakeholder views. Therefore, a clear policy framework is the foundation for the development of ICTs in the country.
Legal and Regulatory Framework
The responsibility for development of the legal framework for the sector lies in the ministry in charge of the ICT portfolio supported by the ministry responsible for the Justice portfolio and the legislature (Parliament). However, another important component in the process is the regulatory function in the sector. Currently, the Communications Authority of Zambia and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services carry the regulatory functions in Telecommunications and Broadcasting sub-sectors respectively. With the enactment of the IBA Act, on
Independent Broadcasting Authority will assume the responsibility of regulating the broadcasting sub-sector.
At the operator level, the major players can be classified as follows;
- Telecommunications ServicesThe telecommunications sub-sector is composed of traditional fixed telephony and mobile communications based on the Global System for Mobile (GSM) communication standard. Another category in this area includes Internet Service Providers. Equipment installation and other services is a small component of the sub-sector.
- Information TechnologyThis category comprises businesses involved in office automation and networking solutions such as supply and installation of computers and networks, system vending, end user training and distributorship. Over the years, the number of projects in this category has increased. However, foreign companies carry much of the substantial works leaving local companies to provide very limited services to clients.
- Postal ServicesZAMPOST is the major player in this category. However, a number of private sector competitors have entered the market especially in the courier business. Due to the introduction of technologies such as Internet on the market, the letter-based system has registered a downward trend over time. However, given the potential of E-Commerce in the country due to increased Internet use; there is great potential for the postal system to contribute significantly to E-Commerce penetration in the country. Therefore, re- engineering of the sub-sector is required to fit the new business environment.
- Broadcasting ServicesRadio and TV form the key components of the sub-sector. The traditional approach to broadcasting has changed significantly over the years. Satellite and Internet technologies have created new opportunities and challenges for policy makers, broadcasters and regulators. This requires a lot of ingenuity given the not-so-clear separation of Radio/TV and Telecommunications services in the current scenario where technology and market convergence are driving diverse industries to merge. Currently, electronic content can be carried irrespective of the technology whether it is radio/TV or telecommunications transmission networks. Therefore, this situation is changing the legal and regulatory framework required to administer the sub-sector.
- ConsumersThe consumers of products and services form an important component of the sector. These include end users, dealers in consumer electronics, consumer associations and corporate customers. A number of factors have been identified as inhibiting the growth of the local ICT industry. Among the key factors affecting the growth of a vibrant private sector-driven ICT sector are:
- Many industry players consider the current investment regime (incentives and taxes) to be unattractive for recapitalisation and new investments in telecommunications, broadcasting and Information Technology subs-sectors;
- Lack of access to affordable capital among Zambian entrepreneurs in the ICT industry; especially start-up capital for SMEs in the sector;
- High import tariffs and taxes imposed on ICT products and services are regarded as having a negative impact on the expansion of the ICT sector, this is despite the reduction of duty on computers from 15 to 5% in the 2004 budget;
- Inadequate supporting infrastructure development such as roads, telecommunications, and electric power to increase the demand for ICT services;
- Poor coordination of the ICT sector resulting in the inability to attract adequate domestic and foreign direct investment;
- Lack of a coordinated industry voice on business matters affecting the sector; and
- Limited regulatory powers amidst convergence of services. Information Technology is not regulated despite forming a key component of the ICT sector.