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Zambia is a large country in terms of physical size: it has a landmass of 752,000 square kilometres. The population, however, is just under 12 million, with an average population density of just 13 inhabitants per square kilometre. The demographics that relate to ICTs, such as tele-density, indicate that Zambia has a high degree of ICT illiteracy, and that therefore, delivery of services to the people is highly inefficient and in need of an urgent overhaul. Currently, only one in 400 people have a personal computer or laptop; and only one in 100 have access to a telephone. Such statistics indicate that the country faces serious constraints in bridging the digital divide.

ICT in Zambia

The Zambian Government has acknowledged this predicament and in 2005 launched a programme for bridging the digital divide under the theme: “Investment Promotion Initiative”, with the assistance of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, and a Malaysian Consultant. This initiative has several aims, including transforming Zambia into one of the centres of excellence in ICT in the region, and turning it into an ICT hub, that links all eight neighbouring countries.Other aims include creating an environment that is conducive to trade and investment, to attract foreign and domestic investments, and encourage private-sector participation in the growth of ICT. It hopes to achieve this through building new and efficient communication and transport infrastructure, and through the implementation of e-education, e-health, or more generally speaking, e-government.

Where are we now?

After a slow start, the Zambia Country Programme is finally starting to expand and flourish. In the past considerable time and effort was spent on raising awareness on the added value of ICT and building capacity to start formulating and developing pilot projects. In 2004, the Small Initiative Fund (SIF) was launched to boost the country programme.

SIF enabled grass-root organisations in poor communities to understand and work with ICT in small projects. Most of these projects use ICT to generate income for community groups and deliver social services through an ICT access centre. To date SIF supports about ten small-scale projects. One of them, the Chawama Youth project, has already been successfully up-scaled into a larger project.

Currently, we are involved in three sectors in Zambia: education, health and livelihoods. In both the education and livelihoods sectors new projects have been formulated and implementation is just starting. In the health sector projects are still in the process of being formulated, and waiting for implementation.

The National ICT for Development network, eBrain Forum, has more than 150 members from various parts of the country. eBrain is actively involved in various thematic groups (agriculture, education, and soon to be started, rural access) and in the implementation of the Zambia’s national ICT policy.

Impact & lessons learned


The project and network activities are strengthened by a Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) system that fosters learning between partners, and identifies areas for improving the impact of the projects. We carry out these activities with our local M&E partner, TEL consultancy.

In 2006, the first of many Focus Group meetings was held for project partners, and the first Focus Group meetings for end-users are already planned for 2007. At these meetings end users can share and discuss the results of projects, and formulate suggestions for further improvement. These meetings offer a unique opportunity for learning within and among the projects.

IICD in Zambia

The Zambia Country Programme started in 1998, at a time when there was already some activity in the country in the ICT arena. This provided a good basis for us to set up our Zambia Country Programme.

Addressing Zambia’s ICT needs

The Zambian government has drawn up a long-term plan called The National Vision 2030. Its key priorities are to reduce poverty and stimulate economic growth, particularly in agriculture and tourism.

When the Zambia Country Programme was first launched in 1998 it took great care to align itself with the government’s priorities and focused on helping key organisations from the education and agricultural sectors to integrate ICT into their activities and develop their own ICT for development (ICT4D) projects.

Later, in 2006, the country programme targeted the health sector in the same way. ICT is now used to enhance secondary school education, improve career prospects for young people, and increase access to healthcare in rural areas.

ICT in projects

Within the education sector, ICT is mostly used to generate new content for the curriculum. Within agricultural livelihoods the focus is on using ICT to exchange good practices, improve products, and generate more income. The 2006 Roundtable for stakeholders from the health sector yielded projects focusing on ‘Improving Access to Rural Health Care and Delivery Services’.

Developing Capacity

During the course of the Zambia Country Programme a bottleneck appeared in the project formulation process: it became clear that several local organisations lacked the skills and experience needed to develop their project idea into a full-fledged, sustainable project.

Up until 2006, the continuous capacity development programme provided under the Country Programme focussed primarily on providing ICT training to local project partners. It did not provide the project teams with a great deal of support during the project formulation process. However, it became apparent that in order to turn project ideas into sustainable projects, several organisations needed to receive additional soft skills training while they were in the process of formulating their project proposal.

Therefore, mid-2006, a local consultancy firm (CAN Investments), was contracted to provide advice and guidance on issues such as how to formulate a project proposal, how to budget for a project, and how to identify the correct ICT mix to achieve a project’s goals.

Following peer-review and approval, a project proposal is taken to the next phase, where the new project teams are provided with the necessary ICT training to implement the project. Our local training partner, ColdReed Training (CRT), provides basic and advanced ICT courses in Zambia.

ColdReed is the first institute in Zambia to provide training and technical support in Free Open Source Software (FOSS). Although the institute is based in the capital, Lusaka, CRT trainers also travel to projects in remote areas, especially those involving teachers and young people from disadvantaged communities.

Establishing networks

We have supported the national ICT4D network e-Brain Forum of Zambia since 2002. eBrain is a membership-based NGO with more than 150 members, including both individuals and organisations. Its secretariat is based in Lusaka and it has branches in the Southern province and Copperbelt.

eBrain is involved in policy dialogues and awareness raising, and aims to support its membership through brokerage and providing information on other ICT-services and experts. eBrain organises monthly meetings to highlight policy issues and innovations in ICT for development. Knowledge and information sharing is achieved though meetings, newsletters, the eBrain website, e-dialogue (Dgroups) and a shared platform.

Thematic working groups that bring together practitioners have been established. They focus on the use of ICT in a specific sector or theme, particularly agriculture, education, rural access and, in the future, health. The aim is to bring experiences and expertise together and identify areas of common interest.

Participating in policy process

Throughout the course of 2006, IICD and several of its local partners such as the National Agricultural Information Services (NAIS) and eBrain assisted the government in its efforts to develop a National ICT Policy. In March 2007 the National ICT Policy was completed and launched by the government, marking the beginning of another phase for ICT4D in Zambia. The National ICT Policy is based on 13 pillars, and has three main goals:

  • To promote the economy;
  • To improve the provision of public sector services to rural communities and other disadvantaged groups; and
  • To boost the performance of the public sector. In addition to the National ICT Policy, the Ministry of Education has prepared an ICT policy for education. The Commonwealth of Learning, IICD, and a Steering Committee for ICT Policy set up by the Ministry of Education, were all involved in assisting the Ministry of Education with this, and in October 2006, the ICT Policy for Education document was completed.

The document identified several obstacles to the full-scale integration of ICT within Zambia’s education sector: the limitations of the local ICT industry; the high cost of technology acquisition; the low level of ICT literacy among the population; and the lack of standardisation and certification programs in IT.

Zambia partners

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