APC comments on the first draft National ICT Policy for Zambia
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA, 02 May 2004
In a letter to the Zambian ministry for communications and transport, APC has commended the Zambian government for its efforts in drafting a holistic national ICT policy and for disseminating the draft online to make it possible for the public to submit comments. “We value the broad definition of ICT adopted early in the document,” says APC, but “Some important policy concerns are mentioned as action points for implementation without a clear enough policy position that would give direction during implementation. Some are left out altogether.” Read the full letter as featured in this month’s “Chakula” – APC’s ICT policy newsletter for African civil society.
Comments by APC (Association for Progressive Communications),
30 April 2004
Contact: Emmanuel Njenga Njuguna – firstname.lastname@example.org
1. General comments
The APC wants to commend the drafting team for their efforts and
for disseminating the document via the internet and for making
it possible for members of the public to submit their comments.
We also value that broad definition of ICT adopted early in the
document: “ICT for purposes of this document is a generic
term used to express the convergence of telecommunications, computer
science, broadcasting, postal and information services in the
delivery of social and economic services and products.”
We found Chapter 2, which provider an overview of the current
ICT context and institutional and regulatory framework very helpful.
The draft National Zambian ICT Policy framework refers to linkages
with wider national development policy documents such as the
Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper and the Transitional National
Development Plan. However, it then seems to dive straight into
infrastructure focused issues with little mention or concern
for wider policy issues that have a relationship with ICTs. For
example, issues such as content development, privacy and surveillance,
communications rights, and intellectual ‘property’.
In other words, the document reads like an ICT infrastructure
development policy and implementation plan rather than a national
ICT policy or strategy.
Infrastructure development is a critical challenge that underpins
making use of ICTs in all sectors of society, but, it is also necessary
to look at policies that can create an enabling environment for
broader ICT use.
While the draft policy tries to address the role of ICT in sectors
such as agriculture, health, education and e-commerce, it dwells
on implementation plans for building ICT infrastructure without
making adequate reference to relevant policy issues associated
with these sectors, for example, the issue of the right of individuals
to privacy in the health sector once health information management
is ICT enabled.
The role of civil society
We commend the document for recognising the role of civil society
in implementation, in the chapter on ‘implementation measures’,
page 58: “Civil society is a fundamental element in the
preservation of human rights and in the development and consolidation
However, the document does not emphasise the importance of involving
civil society in policy formulation nor in monitoring implementation.
There are few other references to civil society in the document
and we recommend that in the next draft of the document the role
of civil society be integrated into all sections of the document,
and that the role of civil society organisations be explored in
2. Vision and Mission
The APC feels that a good policy framework should present a broad
course of action that guides the behaviour of governments, organisations,
corporations and individuals. It is a tool to promote a national
vision that can then form the basis for the legislation and regulation
that is instituted to help implement this vision. . The ‘vision
and mission’ section of the draft policy (chapter 3) is
not very substantial.
It dwells very briefly, and not very convincingly, on a vision
of Zambia becoming a knowledge-based economy by 2020 through the
provision and use of ICTs. The vision emphasizes the role of ICT
as an enabler of social and economic development in the priority
sectors identified. But, what is missing are the principles and
values that, linked to the vision, can form the basis of legislation
and regulation in the medium and long term. For example, there
is no mention of human rights, public participation, gender equality,
media diversity and freedoms; some of the basic building blocks
of a society in which information and communications can freely
and effectively contribute to social and economic and political
The current draft seems only to address principles related to
infrastructure provision such as the liberalization of telecommunication
This section, Chapter 4, opens with a rather questionable statement: “It
has been demonstrated that countries that have achieved sustainable
economic growth and social development have largely done so through
the adoption and exploitation of ICTs.” It emphasises the
need for ‘local and foreign direct investment’ but,
while it stresses the need for coordination among government departments,
it does not sufficiently emphasise the government’s responsibility
for national social and economic development.
While APC would not deny the importance of ICTs in social and
economic development there are several other factors which play
a key role, particularly looking at a country’s development
over time, such as the structural inequality that characterises
global social and economic realities; basic infrastructure development;
human rights; education; public sector capacity and service delivery;
public participation in decision-making that impacts on people’s
lives; and freedom of information, to mention but a few. Relying
on ICTs to ‘create’ development is not a reliable starting
point for any country that is facing severe under development and
that needs to strengthen participative government.
However, some very important policy issues are raised this chapter;
the problem is that they are not addressed in any depth, for example, ‘intellectual
property’, ‘information security’ and ‘content
4. Guiding Principles
Some excellent principles are contained in this section. We recommend
that in the next draft, greater attention is given to ensuring
that the policy recommendations adhere to them. Attention should
also be given to ensure that some of the guiding principles in
the Draft ICT Policy harmonises with principles that guide other
policies (for example freedom of the media and information).
6 Policy Goals Objectives and Strategies
This section shows the wealth of work that went into developing
the strategy. It is fairly comprehensive, and covers most key
areas, but, there are some important gaps, and in some cases
critical issues are glossed over.
‘Intellectual property’, or rather, copyright,
trademarks and patents
For example, on page 20 in section 6.3 on ‘overall policy
objectives’ there is a very brief and uncritical reference
to intellectual property: “9. To accord due regard, recognition
and protection of intellectual property rights.” What does
this really mean in the Zambian context? Have the limitations of
current intellectual property regimes on using ICTs for development
been explored? For example the impact of copyright restrictions
on university libraries, or the cost of government having to enforce
adherence to software licences of international software monopolies?
We recommend that the each of areas of copyright, trademarks and
patents (incorrectly lumped together as ‘intellectual property’)
be explored in its own right in the next draft of the document.
The role of the media, in particularly community media
On page 22 the government declares its commitment to “Developing
appropriate local multimedia content by; a. Accelerating the implementation
of the national cultural policy by using ICTs; b. Promoting the
production and dissemination of products and services that reflect
the needs, interests, cultural values and realities in the country;
c. Encouraging the harnessing and development of local knowledge
However, this paragraph does not mention the importance of a vibrant
and free media sector, nor the important role the community media
can play in developing and disseminating local content. Also, while
APC supports the recognition by governments of the importance of
investing in local and useful content, we want to sound a word
of caution: ‘Who decides what content reflects the needs
and realities of the country? Who decides what the cultural values
are? Such norms can easily be used as a basis for limiting freedom
of expression, particularly when content is perceived as being
critical of government.
Youth and gender
On page 48 there is a section on ‘youth and gender’.
Both these areas are important and should indeed be mentioned in
an ICT policy document, but, lumping them together tends to reinforce
the marginalisation of women and young people. We propose that
in the next draft young people and women are addressed in separate
sections, with gender being dealt with consistently as a cross-cutting
On a positive note, this section is one of the few in which there
is a mention of civil society as a stakeholder.
Section 6.4.10 on ICT services has good content, and in particular
we strongly support the objective to expand community radio which
is mentioned on page 53 and the multi-faceted approach to providing
However, there is no explicit reference to the use of voice over
internet protocol (even though the current monopoly of Zamtel over
VoIP is mentioned in chapter 2) and there is an over-reliance on
private sector investment in rolling out these services.
We also feel this section does not mention the critical importance
of community based structures and civil society entities in establishing
and maintaining such services.
Chapter 7 focuses on implementation measures an outlines the roles
of different groups. As mentioned above we believe that the role
of civil society needs to be developed n greater depth.
We also recommend that the section on multi-lateral trade on page
59 be reviewed to reflect more critically and expansively on both
the threats and opportunities that current trade regimes hold for
the use of ICTs for development in a country such as Zambia.
8. Comments on Specific Policy Issues of Concern to the APC
Some important policy concerns are mentioned as action points for
implementation without a clear enough policy position that would
give direction during implementation. Some are left out altogether.
A few of these worth mentioning:
- The Right to Access
While the draft policy does address some important elements of
the right to communicate, such as universal access (through the
planned universal service fund and its implementation) there
is insufficient emphasis on mechanisms that would monitor the
implementation of universal access. Nor does it addressing financing
convincingly. The document emphasizes the role of the private
sector and government in funding universal service through a
% of revenue and a levy but this does not guarantee that enough
funds will be made available. Not does it guarantee implementation.
The government should explore more innovative ways to realise
universal service and not merely rely on universal service funds
to ensure that every citizen has access to affordable and universally
accessible ICTs, for example effective liberalisation to allow
for competitive service delivery based on deregulation of low
cost options such as wireless connectivity and voice over internet.
We also believe that all the recommendations made with regard
to public and universal access should be reviewed from the perspective
of ensuring equal access for women and men.
- Freedom of expression and information exchange
Chapter 4 on ‘rationale’ proposes that the policy
framework addresses constitutional matters such as freedom of
and access to information. However, the draft policy does not go
into detail on any of the issues related to ensuring that freedom
of expression and information exchange will be ensured in the use
of the internet, not does it mention what policy would be implemented
to prevent censorship and secure the freedom to engage in public
protest and online debates.
- Diversity in the ownership and control of content
and the content itself
The draft policy framework emphasises the need for developing
appropriate local multimedia content but fails to address the
control of content; an aspect that would impact on content diversity.
- Free/open source software, technology development, copyright,
trademarks and patents
The document fails to address the crucial issues of patents and
copyright in the production of software. Current regimes restrict
the development of local software industries in developing countries,
increases the profits of foreign owned software producers with
monopolistic practices often illegal in their countries of origin,
limits the development of software appropriate to local needs,
and does not build local technical capacity and creativity. There
is a widespread free and open source software (FOSS) movement in
Africa and several governments reflect this in their policy documents
and we are surprised that this is not the case in the draft Zambian
policy. It raises the concern that the document might be avoiding
contentious areas deliberately.
We also note that when the issue of intellectual property rights
is mentioned in various sections of the document it is usually
to say that the government would ensure the protection of intellectual
property rights. Current intellectual property rights have mostly
been benefiting developed countries where ownership of patents,
trademarks and copyright is held, at the expense of developing
countries. It is thus imperative that alternate options such as
FOSS be pursued, and that the impact of copyright on information
dissemination be considered.
- Global information commons
There are several references to the need for information production
and dissemination, but the document does not address the impact
of the increasing commodification of information and information
services on ‘information for the public good’.
- Privacy and SPAM
The issue of privacy is only mentioned as a concern to citizens
who may be hesitant to use e-government channels. Protecting
the privacy of users of ICT services at all levels is essential
if the government wants to build an enabling environment for
the use of ICTs. Crucial privacy issues needs to be addressed
to ensure certain minimum conditions are adhered to like data
protection, freedom from surveillance, the right to secure, private
The issue of SPAM (unsolicited commercial email) should also be
addressed. It is critical that SPAM is addressed at all levels,
including in national policy and regulatory frameworks. SPAM is
impacting on the cost of using and running the internet, and violates
the privacy of individual users.
- National governance of the internet
The draft policy framework fails to address issues related to governance
of the internet and the participation and scrutiny by all stakeholders,
particularly non-commercial stakeholders as far as the Zambia
domain name is concerned.
- Awareness, protection and realisation of rights
Finally we also find the draft policy does not adequately address
the promotion and protection of rights. For example, in the
case of universal services, unless communities and citizens
that a policy document provides for their rights to access,
they will not be in a position to lobby for the implementation
The draft policy should give guidance on what measures and institutions
will responsible for informing people about their rights when using
ICTs and what mechanisms will be in place for people to make use
of should they feel their rights are violated.
In spite of the various points of criticism contained in our comments
we commend the Zambian government for undertaking this process
and for the addressing ICTs as an important area, was well as
an issue that should be mainstreamed in sectoral policies. The
document is generally comprehensive and adopts a holistic approach.
We look forward to the next draft.
Association for Progressive Communications
30 April 2004