BY RICHARD MULONGA
INFORMATION is power, states a journalism cliché. Certainly information is power because it empowers people with the authority to make informed decisions in the development process or any other subject that they may be handling.
It is also true that information removes all obstacles to development. For instance, in a democratic dispensation such as the one Zambia is governing on, the provision of information to the general citizenry is critical because information is a pre-requisite to democracy.
This is justified by the fact that democracy is meant for the people, by the and with the people where free-flowing information about governance plays a major role in establishing a true transparent mode of governance.
This author has expounded on this subject to eulogise the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) for establishing a website, which is expected to provide up-to-the minute information about the proceedings in the constitutional making process.
Many Zambians have different views about the existence of the NCC and that is their right as enshrined in the same constitution being amended.
But aside from that debate, which has spurned many months and across a cross section of society. In fact this author would suggest that the criticism of NCC has been Zambia’s biggest debate since 2007 when it was established.
This week, NCC chairperson Chifumu Banda, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country co-ordinator McLeod Nyirongo, Justice deputy minister Todd Chilembo, and iconnect marketing and brand manager Jonathan Elliot with a list of other invited guests converged at Lusaka’s Mulungushi international conference centre to launch a website for the NCC.
The website, www.ncczambia.org was established because of the desire by the NCC members to have medium where they would be able to communicate with other stakeholders.
The website has been designed to provide a two-way communication channel between stakeholders and the public on this hand and the NCC on the other.
The website endeavors to provide downloadable and detailed information on the NCC, its mandate, membership, committee, news updates and verbatim reports for committee meetings and conference sittings.
It is through this website that stakeholders and members of the public would be able to make their views and demands known through the ‘have your say’ window.
The NCC website has created a platform where the members of the public can share their views on the draft constitution and also obtain latest reports.
The creation of the NCC website is commendable because it has established a channel where members of the public would be able to follow proceedings of the NCC without any interruption, unlike previously where the citizenry relied on press reports, which are usually highly edited to cater for space.
This development is also laudable because it has provided an avenue where the NCC should be transparent in its proceedings.
The website has also provided an opportunity to Zambians and other stakeholders in the diaspora to follow and participate in the proceedings of the NCC.
Interaction and information sharing with between the NCC and the public is critical. This is critical because it would guarantee an opportunity to every Zambian to participate in the constitution making process.
The UNDP provided technical and financial support to set-up the website. The UNDP in Zambia has been providing other forms of support to the NCC such as procurement of office equipment for the secretariat and the engagement of experts in the constitution making process. So far, the UNDP has pumped US$350, 000 into the NCC.
“It is my sincere hope that stakeholders will take advantage of this excellent opportunity to increase their interaction with the NCC and make their views and those of their members known to the conference.
“In this regard, I wish to implore members of the public who will have access to the website to make their contributions on-line on the numerous issues under discussion by the NCC,” chairperson Chifumu Banda said during the launch.
And iconnect marketing and brand manager Jonathan Elliot said his firm was greatly encouraged by the commitment and innovation the government and the NCC had shown in developing the interactive website. He said there would be dialogue achieved on the website.
“It ties in very well with the work we at iconnect have been driving forward, such as the rural connectivity in Namwala and our school project.
“It will allow Zambians all over the world to contribute to the shaping of our nation’s constitution,” he said.
And Justice deputy minister Todd Chilembo said the draft constitution of the NCC would only be legitimate if many Zambians were given an opportunity to participate in the making of the document.
He said sharing information was important in the constitution making process.
“I am sure the website would create the much needed interaction between the NCC and the general public,” he said.
UNDP resident co-ordinator McLeod Nyirongo said the organisation was glad that Zambia was tirelessly entrenching democracy in its society.
“The effort to accommodate as may divergent views as possible needs to be recognized as it is a key ingredient for conflict prevention,” Mr Nyirongo said.
The Internet has been used to influence decisions since it dawned on mankind.
The Internet can also play a vital role in informing and educating the Zambian people as Zambia makes strides to advance its laws because it would also allow those in the diaspora to provide in-put.