The above shows some regions of the world and their level of internet freedom. There has been a slump in the levels over the past 5 years around the world owing to the following factors according to the Freedom House Index. For Zambia, however, there have been some developments between 2014 and 2015. No websites have been blocked during the period June 2015 to date, compared to 4 news sites that were blocked the previous year.
Zambia was one of the first countries in sub-Saharan Africa to get access to the internet and also one of the first to set censors on some sites. However, the freedom is not entirely restricted, with the Freedom House index of 2015 giving it a ‘partly free’ tag. The obstacles to internet access are still due to a large infrastructure deficit, high data price rates, and a large urban-rural divide.
Internet penetration rose from about 10 to 17% in 2015, with mobile phone use increasing in many places. One of its limitations is that internet speeds are still very slow, averaging around 1.3mbps, compared to the global minimum of 3.9mbps. The high cost of internet data bundles also hinders the use of the internet, with many Zambians using BlackBerry devices with their cheaper subscription fees.
The report also stated that ‘access in rural areas has lagged behind due to the high costs of hardware and software, erratic and expensive electricity, poor network coverage, and high levels of illiteracy’.
All ICT activities are monitored by the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority who even though supposed to be independent of government, may in some instances be influenced by it. The Independent broadcasting Authority may also censor content that takes the form of online broadcasting.
This ‘Freedom on the Net’ report was compiled by the Freedom House Index and you can read the entire report here.