They met at Lusaka’s Andrews Motel, 10 kms from city center, to deliberate key challenges affecting the telecentre movement and plan the way forward for overall integration of ICTs in development and telecentre network development. The workshop among others was to come out with concrete steps towards building sustainable telecenter network platform with a view to support increased collaboration and knowledge sharing among community based telecenters in Zambia.
The workshop was organized by Zambia Association for Advancement of ICTs(ZAA-ICT) in conjunction with Southern Africa Telecenter Network (SATNET) and supported with auspices of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).
The event was officially opened by the Director in the Ministry of Communications and Transport Mr. Lumana Soko who in his speech encouraged participants to discuss critical issues and come out with practical steps that will facilitate provision and increased use of ICTs by the majority of the people particularly in rural areas in conformance with the current Zambian ICT policy.
During the course of the workshop, participants observed some of the key challenges affecting development of telecenters such as:
- Low literacy levels in the use of ICTs especially in rural areas
- High costs of telecentre set up
- Lack of ICT infrastructure in rural areas
- Cost of service rates by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) affects service delivery
- Lack of capacity development support services
- Low capacity by telecentres in management and technical expertise
- Poor power access especially in rural areas
- Difficulties in content development and access as this affect service delivery to clients
- Recognition of telecentres by government
Participants also noted that telecenters offer vast opportunities to local communities access agricultural market services and telecentres as market axis centres, creation of jobs (employment opportunities), telecentres provide local interaction and access to public and private sector services, telecentres promote education and e-learning opportunities, health information promotion as well as partnership development with the private sector. Through plenary and group participation, the workshop further emphasized the need to establish a national telecenter network through which to resolve various challenges, sharing of experiences and increase knowledge creating a platform to contribute to strengthened role of telecentrers in national development and the future of a national telecenter information exchange network development in Zambia.
Participants recommended focus areas in order for the national telecentrer network to be effective:
- Establish clear operational structure
- Increased collaboration among telecentres
- Creation of the Online group
- Start a help desk
- Scheduled contact meetings (quarterly and annual meetings)
- Local and international telecentre exchange visits
- Financial resource mobilization
- Policy advocacy
By the end of the workshop, a national network steering committee was elected comprising of 9 steering committee members and headed by a female as a chairperson.
With a positive supportive environment from government, civil society and international community, it is the desire of the Zambia telecenters that the network achieves its intended objectives.