The first Lusaka Internet forum was launched and hosted by the Embassy of Sweden and the Zambia Governance Foundation on the 10th and 11th of May 2017. Riding on the back of the Stockholm Internet Forum which takes place in Sweden annually, the theme was ‘Leave No One Offline’.
The 3 main areas of discussion concerning Zambia were:
- Agricultural sustainability with ICTs
- Freedom of expression online
- Gender and access to ICTS
The goal of the forum was to bring together policymakers, organisations and individuals to air out their differences and discuss solutions to the problem of a lack of high ICT usage in Zambia.
Agricultural Sustainability with ICTS
The major issues raised were a lack of data on weather, crop input locations, marketing opportunities both local and foreign.
The solutions were:
- get USSD-based data available to farmers which can be accessed on any type of phone
- set up or integrate warehouse receipt software tied to database on inputs
- lower interest rates on loans for farmers and better fintech platforms with easy access to products
- more farmers should seek online demand for agricultural products or start their own e-commerce platforms to find trade opportunities
- use of ICTs like media, including radio and SMS as a learning/training tool for farmers
- teach farmers stock market know-how, online and globally, to open up wider market opportunities
- push for use of mobile money to pay for goods and services needed by farmers
Freedom of expression online
The major challenges in Zambia with freedom of expression are the lack of laws specific to online activity that can be used to halt abusers of the space. ZICTA has a consumer guidelines document that may help in such cases but the legislative laws may not be strong enough. Another problem is the cost of access to internet to even express oneself fully, an increase in cybercrime and existing cultural traditions that marginalize women and youth from talking and challenging men and elders.
The solutions discussed were:
- to use available media (online or offline) to educate consumers of their right whilst online
- get regulators to cost-share infrastructure to lower cost of operations, leading to lower cost of data
- inclusion of cybersecurity training in schools from an early age so they are not victims of cybercrime
- training of law enforcement in ICT regulations so they know when they are within limits to arresst and prosecute an online abuser
- get more users to be responsible with what they post online, and not behind behind the statement ‘I have a right to freedom of expression’ even when they could cause harm or incite violence
- allow more women and children to speak up on governance issues online
Gender and Access
Problem identified in Zambia include lack of digital literacy by females from a lack of training opportunities, traditional and social norms that exclude them from accessing the internet at grassroot level, in the home, e.g the girl has to cook while the boy goes to school and may be taught computer lessons, or the guys always fix the technical problems in the home while girls are not allowed to sit with them.
- get more research specifically on women and internet access, not just generic numbers that do not go beyond age, income and gender
- approach parents properly to access their children and teach ICTs to them as trainers in communities
- unlearn some of bad habits derived from social norms limiting women from progress
- teach male children that females are their equals
- speak more about projects targeted at ICTs for women
- sensitize users on usefulness of social media rather than just getting likes or for sharing memes
- get stronger laws regulating online platforms for abusers to protect females from harassment of all sorts
I’d say the event was successful and hopefully by the next one next year we will see less problems as the solutions will have been put in place already.