Huawei to Bridge the Digital Divide in Zambia?

Vice President Dr Guy Scott makes the first call from Huawei's new base station
Vice President Dr Guy Scott makes the first call from Huawei’s new tower

The digital divide is what separates those with access to the net from those without it. The cause of this anomaly typically is the lack of technological infrastructure in the rural areas to support access. Enter Huawei. We got a press release from them today that announces a partnership with Zamtel, Airtel Zambia and MTN Zambia to bridge the digital divide in Zambia by connecting remote rural areas to the phone networks.

This, Huawei says, will release a flood of opportunities which will propel ICT in Zambia to new heights. Through voice and data services, previously technologically marginalised people will join the rest of us that are using technology to communicate and consume information.

Huawei is constructing communications towers as part of ZICTA’s project to build 169 towers in all ten provinces: 21 in Central Province; 11 in the Copperbelt; 23 in Eastern Province; 19 in Luapula; two in Lusaka; 12 in Muchina; 19 in Northern Province; 26 in North-Western Province, 21 in Southern and 15 in Western Province.

The Universal Access Project aims to address this gap in connectivity by promoting access, affordability and availability to ICT facilities and services to all Zambians. The towers, of which some 57 will be serviced by Zamtel, 56 by MTN and 56 by Airtel, are expected to be completed before the end of October this year.

The first tower was officially launched on April 17, 2014 by Vice President Dr Guy Scott at Matanda in Luapula Province, accompanied by the Minister of Transport Works Supply and Communications Hon. Yamfwa Mukanga, the Chinese Ambassador to Zambia H.E. Zhou Yuxiao and Huawei Technologies Zambia Managing Director Spawn Fan Wen, along with the board Chairperson of Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority  (ZICTA) Emmanuel Musonda, ZICTA Director General Margaret Mudenda, traditional leaders and more than 500 people from the surrounding area.

Apparently job creation is a key part of this strategy. Beyond employment which will come via direct involvement in the project, there are a number of other ways the public can capitalise on this new development. Supposedly the project is going to improve network quality, affordable rates and more value-added services for the benefit of the people of Zambia. With the recent increase in fuel prices though, we can only wonder how cheap phone calls can get considering the cost to maintain a cell phone is almost a luxury!

Image courtesy: Langmead & Baker Communications.

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