THE National Assembly has adopted the report of the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technologies aimed at enhancing the use of ICTs in government operations.

This was after Zambezi West UPND member of parliament Prisca Kacheka moved a motion to adopt this report, Wednesday afternoon, which was seconded by Chifubu PF member of parliament Frank Ng’ambi.

And Information and Broadcasting Services Minister Dora Siliya says it is important for the public sector to embrace the use of ICTs, especially during and post the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that Zambia must find local e-solutions to avoid paying high licences for the usage of e-services.

In her submission, Kacheka, who is the vice-chairperson for the Parliamentary Committee on Media, Information and Communication Technologies, expressed concern that the programme whih was supposed to improve government service delivery was being governed by a 2006 policy, which was outdated.

“Mr Speaker, governments world-over have turned to ICTs to facilitate efficient public service delivery, improved quality of service delivery and development of good governance. In this regard, the government of the Republic of Zambia has since been implementing the e-government programme. Mr Speaker, one area that the Committee looked into is with regard to the adequacy of the policy framework for the implementation of e-governance in Zambia. Sir, the Committee is appalled to note that the programme that is supposed to improve government service delivery is being governed by the information and communication technology policy of 2006, which is sadly out-of-date. The Committee is particularly concerned that despite the sector being dynamic, the policy has not been reviewed,” Kacheka observed.

She also noted some challenges with the current ICT infrastructure in the country, which she said was negatively affecting the implementation of the e-governance programme countrywide.

“The Committee has taken note of the efforts government is putting in place to scale up ICT infrastructure, such as the Zambia National Data Centre phase one and phase two, with the disaster recovery site and establishment of the Ndola ICT Centre of Excellency at the Zambia ICT college for capacity building. The Committee notes that the Government Wide Area Network (GWAN) has only connected about 123 government institutions. Sir, the Committee also agrees with stakeholders that this infrastructure is largely located in urban areas and has not covered all the 118 districts. This is negatively affecting the implementation of the e-governance programme countrywide. This challenge is further compounded by lack of adequate devices such as computers and laptops for the effective and efficient provision of e-government service delivery especially in newly created districts,” she said.

“In this regard, the Committee strongly recommends that the government should, as a matter of urgency, conclude the projects that are currently being implemented to ensure that all districts are covered. The Committee also urges the government to adequately fund the Smart Zambia Institute, which has been established to spearhead the programme in order for it to procure the required electronic devices for distribution in all districts.”

Kacheka also asked government to speed up the implementation process in order to clean up the government payroll countrywide.

“While the Committee appreciates the efforts government is making in designing a programme to link the government payroll management and establishment control to the biometric system to enhance payroll integrity, it is concerned that the government is not implementing the project with the requisite urgency, especially that IFMS recently revealed that 4,000 civil servants on the government payroll where unaccounted for on the Copperbelt Province. In view of the foregoing, the Committee, therefore, recommends that the government should speed up the implementation process aimed at linking the government payroll management system to a biometric identification system to clean up the government payroll countrywide,” said Kacheka.

And supporting the adoption of the report, Siliya said Zambia needed to find local e-solutions to avoid paying high licences for the usage of e-services.

“I do recognize that most of the report was limited to issues to do with the Ministry of Transport and Communications and specifically ICT. But even in the Ministry of Information and traditional media, we’ve also migrated to issues of e-connectivity because most of the media houses now are using the Internet to operate. Just also to assure colleagues that as government implements the e-governance programme, it’s not being done in a haphazard manner, it’s extremely coordinated and that’s because we believe that’s where the efficiencies will come from. We do take note that it’s important that we continue to create awareness in the country in terms of the values and efficiencies in terms of using ICT. We’ve seen Dr Mtonga of Smart Zambia going around the country just to do that, especially with the public service. But also to ensure that the public sector embraces the use of ICT, especially now in the time of Coronavirus and post-COVID,” said Siliya.

“We do recognize that the ICT sector is one of the sectors that is poised for growth and is creating immediate jobs for our young people. And we do need to find local e-solutions so that we avoid paying high licences for the usage of these services. So, Mr Speaker, just to take note of the issues that were raised and that at the centre, indeed, is appreciation, education and awareness about the importance of the usage of ICT and how to use it positively.”

Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo also explained how the use of ICT would help his Ministry in efficiently and effectively carrying out its tasks.

“We are also in the process to automate the civil registration processes. Mr Speaker, you may wish to know that from the time we attained independence in 1964, the identification of citizens has remained manual; you can imagine how many files there are now that we have more than 17 million citizens. So, we are in the process of ensuring that we migrate the civil registration processes from the historical manual processes to digital platforms. So, Mr Speaker, we shouldn’t look back, e-governance is a cost, but I think it’s a cost worth investing in,” said Kampyongo.