COMMUNICATION plays a pivotal role in the socio-economic development of any country because it integrates society where people and resources are able to meet their potential.
Over the years, the sector had provided climatic weather information to the key sectors of the economy all over because of communications.
Similarly, the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sub sector is gaining prominence with the rapid technological advancements that have spilled over world-wide since the 1990s.
Infact, ICT is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and is changing technologies, business models and work relation as it was widely regarded as the fourth factor of production after land, labour and capital.
The Government has recognised that fact and focuses at three levels namely connectivity, capacity and content.
Prior to the 1990s, the sub sector only covered communications in its traditional sense which included telecommunications and postal services.
However, the convergence of technologies has drastically changed the landscape of the communications industry worldwide.
Since the early 1990s, developments in telecommunications and information technology such as computer science and broadcasting have improved and over-lapped such that the two have converged through internet.
The core sub-sectors are telecommunications, information technology, broadcasting and multimedia which include newspapers, magazines, brochures and mobile phones have become an important component of communications.
From mid 1990s, the telecommunications sub-sector in Zambia was characterised by one monopoly firm which was the Post and Telecommunication Corporation (PTC).
Four years later, the sector was liberalised as part of encouraging private sector participation in the provision of telecommunications and postal services.
It was at this point that PTC was split into two public companies namely Zambia Postal Services Corporation (ZAMPOST) and the Zambia Telecommunication Company Limited (ZAMTEL.
The liberalisation of the telecommunications sub sector opened up opportunities for investment in the communication sector.
The communication sector recorded an increase in local and foreign investments which is referred to as Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) since the liberation programme began.
Currently, there are three operators in the mobile phones namely Airtel formerly Celtel, MTN formerly Telecel and Cell Z.
In the 21st Century, mobile phones have a reflective impact on the way people in the communities live.
According to ICT sector statistics for performance of mobile voice market in 2000 it was 49,957 while by December 2011 it stood at 8,164,553
The power of mobile phones has transformed the modern landscape thereby defeating the problem of distance.
The ICT sector has become competitive in the provision of services and the benefits of competition as could be seen through reduction in tariffs for services and innovative value added services.
Of late the internet segment has attracted more private sector participation compared to mobile segment.
Despite the availability of the mobile phones, it was still difficult for some people to communicate to their loved ones due to poor network coverage in some areas of the country such as the newly created Vubwi District, Mwanya, Kazembe, Chitungulu in Lundazi District among other parts of Eastern Province as most of the areas are not on the mobile phone network.
According to Vubwi Member of Parliament Eustarckio Kazonga, some residents were still using the Malawian network areas such as Zozwe, Mlawe, Chimphanje and Chisiya wards.
Dr Kazonga said this was making communication either difficult or expensive to the residents of Vubwi District.
"Therefore, we need communication towers in Zozwe, Khumba, Kabvumo, Mwangazi, Chisiya, Mlawe and part of Ambidzi ward respectively to improve communication in the area, "he said.
Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) Under Section Four of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Act No. 15 of 2009 has promised to effectively provide regulatory services to the ICT sector in order to enhance Universal Access to the ICT services.
President Michael Sata is on record as having said that education, skills development and science and technology were the key to improving the productivity of the people and facilitating national development.
On September 21st last year, during the official opening of the second session of the 11th National Assembly, President Sata said the Government was working on the Higher Education Authority Bill so as to augment the national qualification framework.
He said his Government appreciates the initiatives taken by the private sector to establish universities and other tertiary institutions of learning in Zambia.
The establishment of the private and other tertiary institutions of learning was part of enhancing ICT as most institutions would be equipped by computers fully connected to the internet.
As part of regulating network service providers in Zambia like in other countries across Africa and overseas, ZICTA through Section Six of the Act empowers the regulator to be regulating the provision of electronic communication services, products and monitor the performance of the sector including the levels of investment as well as the availability, quality, cost and standards of the electronic communication services.
This is in compliance with the Information Communication Technologies (ICT) Act No.15 of 2009 and the Statutory Instrument on the Registration of Electronic Communication Apparatus No. 65 of 2011, ZICTA announces to all mobile cell phone subscribers in Zambia the commencement of the Registration of Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards by the three mobile cellular Service Providers (SP).
Recently during a ZICTA-media interactive luncheon at Pineview Lodge in Chipata District, ZICTA public relations manager Ngabo Nankonde said Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card registration was not a political issue nor should it spark a debate among subscribers but rather be considered as a statutory requirement for security purposes.
She said none of the mobile phone providers in Zambia had given access to their subscriber call records to any of the political parties.
"ZICTA has recently received complaints from members of the public that they are receiving unsolicited calls and short message systems (SMS) from some political parties," she said.
Ms Nankonde said there was false impression such as the alleged political strategy for the Government on the current on-going SIM card registration.
She said ZICTA draws its mandate from the Information Communications Technologies (ICT) Act No. 15 of 2009 and the Statutory Instrument on the Registration of Electronic Communications Apparatus No. 65 of 2011 to ensure that all the mobile phone service providers register the SIM cards of all their subscribers.
Ms Nankonde said SIM card registration in Zambia was now a law that would enable law enforcement agencies create a database to help identify the mobile SIM card owners.
The registration was essential in tracking down criminals who use cell phones for illegal activities and also to curb other negative incidences such as loss of phone through theft, nuisance text messages, fraud, threats and inciting violence among others.
She said failure to register a SIM card is a breach of the law and jeopardises government efforts of stamping out incidences of crime perpetuated through mobile phone hand-sets and by extension, putting oneself at risk.
Ms Nankonde said ZICTA had also procured a quality service monitoring equipment worth over K1billion (KR 1 million) to ensure that mobile phone companies provide improved services to their clients.
She said this was to ensure that there was quality service monitoring equipment in place, consumers would no longer be getting raw deals from mobile service providers like what was currently obtaining in the country.
"A quality service monitoring equipment has been purchased at over K1billion (KR 1 million). ZICTA is in the process of discussing with mobile providers on quality service provision following many complaints from mobile phone (service) users in the country," she said.
Ms Nankonde said the authority has continued receiving complaints of poor service from Airtel Zambia, MTN Zambia and ZAMTEL.
She said communication be it mobile phone or internet must be of high quality so that the public could easily access information using cell phones or computers without difficulties.
Ms Nankonde urged Airtel Zambia, MTN Zambia and ZAMTEL to address the various concerns raised by their respective subscribers because Zambia wants quality mobile services.
She also said ZICTA will continue to connect schools and universities with ICTs, adding that plans were underway to also start connecting health institutions such as Chainama Hospital in Lusaka to ICTs.
Ms Nankonde said the media is an important vehicle of information technology and strategic partners in ensuring that the public understand and appreciate the relevance of ICTs.
However, the convergence of technologies has changed the landscape of the communications industry worldwide.
And ZICTA Public Relations Officer Chisha Mulunda said those who acquire new SIM cards would be required to register at the point of acquiring them.
He said all mobile cellular subscribers shall be required to register their SIM card details with their respective mobile service provider.
"The registration process is administered by each Mobile Service Provider (MSP) and the following information should be provided with a full name, National Registration Card Number, Drivers' license (for Zambian subscribers), passport or work-permit number (for non Zambia Subscribers),physical address, the email address, if available and details of valid identification documents, serial number of SIM cards,"he said.
ZICTA director general Margaret Mudenda said ZICTA was planning to start naming streets and numbering of houses in Livingstone to enable tourists and other guests locate various places in the city without much difficult.
Ms Mudenda said the project, which would be wholly funded by ZICTA would start once relevant authorities gave the authority a list of roads and houses whose markings were faded or not there.
She said ZICTA wanted to roll out the project in Livingstone to alleviate the problem of poor signage in the city ahead of the United Nations World Tourism general assembly this year.
Ms Mudenda said ZICTA would put up permanent sign posts using materials such as cement as metals were usually vandalised.
She said the project which was already being undertaken in some parts of Lusaka would later spread to other parts of the country in residential areas such as the central business districts and villages.
With the liberalised economy by the Government, the smart Pu
blic Private Partnership (PPP) shall be a dominant player in the market of internet services and the expansion of internet, cellular phones, email and other data services which are expected to ride on the telecommunications network.
The increase in up-take of the services was expected to facilitate further growth in the Information Technology (IT) sector through products and services.