April 22, 2016

A new nationwide survey by CUTS International Lusaka has revealed that the majority of Zambians consider the price they pay for mobile phones to be too high.

The results of the survey revealed that 57 percent of Zambian households feel that the price they pay for mobile network services is too high. While 54 percent of respondents said that the price for mobile services had gone up in the last 6 months.

Other results of the survey indicate that 77 percent of households that have mobile phones use them more than once a week, with about 63 percent of households using them daily. The mobile technology revolution has been widely regarded to have positive social and economic impacts on the lives of ordinary Zambians and the survey reveals that 68 percent of respondents are satisfied with the quality of their preferred mobile network service.

These positive social and economic impacts possibly help explain why the findings indicate that in spite of how Zambians feel about the price of mobile services, 75 per cent said they would continue to pay for services at the current rates.

According to the Zambia Information and Communication and Technology Authority (ZICTA), only 64.5 percent of the households in the country currently have access to a mobile phone determined by at least one member of the household owning a mobile phone. However, the majority of the households that own mobile phones are located in the urban areas: with 84.8 percent of the households in urban areas having access to mobile phones while only 50.4 percent of homes on rural areas own mobile phones.

The Zambian government has sought to improve access to information and communication technology especially in rural areas. In 2014 the government launched a project entitled ‘Connecting Chiefdom Towers’ through ZICTA to close the digital gap that existed between urban and rural areas. In this project towers were to be erected with the aim of bridging the digital divide through integrating citizens in marginalised communities to the telecom network. However, research by CUTS revealed that some of the towers that were put up fell short of meeting the 5km coverage radius requirement thus limiting improvements in rural network coverage.

Following an engagement with the Parliamentary Committee on Telecommunications and CUTS’s insistence that the defaults with the erected towers ought to be addressed before the second phase of the project continued. It is appeasing to note that government halted the commencement of phase two of the chiefdom Tower Project. Minister of Transport and Communication, Hon. Kapembwa Simbao said that, while the ministry had planned to start phase two of the project in April 2016, the installation of communication towers had stalled pending feedback from the Ministry of Justice following some changes to the contracts for the project which needed clarification. Mr. Simbao said as soon as the ministry responded to their letter and funds were made available, the installation of towers would commence. We hope that government will place high priority on ensuring accessibility of mobile phone services through the provision of efficient and affordable services.