Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Building Zambia’s Digital future

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Vodafone Zambia CEO Lars Stork

The rise of data, nurturing the inventiveness of young people, and why I believe Zambia can be the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Southern Africa.

The communications sector in Zambia has undergone significant transition turning it into one driven primarily by the growth of data services. The popularity of social media websites and instant messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Instagram, Snap Chat and WhatsApp continues to stimulate data usage across different segments in the market.

Most smart-phone owners’ usage patterns have increasingly become more data-heavy, with the quantity spent on non-voice activity rising noticeably. The initial idea around the smartphone was that it would allow both voice and data communications on a single device. However, in the last few years, the data capabilities of smartphones have gradually heightened, in the form of improved graphics, high definition cameras, larger screens, and 4G LTE compatibility – all of which demonstrate how data-hungry consumers have become.

Have a look at a few corroborating stats; Tech Crunch reports that in 2015 Facebook video viewership grew by leaps and bounds. It saw roughly 8 billion average daily video views from 500 million users. Statistic brain reports that the number of videos viewed on YouTube everyday amount to under 5 billion which is the equivalent of 3.25 billion hours of watched video each month.

Against this backdrop, Vodafone entered the Zambian market in June 2016 with the launch of 4G-LTE data services aimed at transforming the communication sector in order to bridge the digital divide, with an initial investment of $US40 million.

The birth of Vodafone Zambia was a result of Vodafone and Afrimax Group entering a non-equity partner market agreement for Zambia with a clear vision of becoming the number one next generation operator in Zambia.

Prior to our launch, our market research and intelligence revealed a reality I have known for a long time now: Zambia’s youth are vibrant, are buzzing with ideas and innovations, and are hungry to transform not only their country but the entire continent. Access to mobile technologies, reliable and ultra-fast internet will give them the energy and excitement to test, innovate, and push their limits.

We have created around 130 jobs in the last six months, and 50 per cent of those are graduates, who are some of the best and brightest students from universities and colleges in the country, who form part of our graduate trainee programme.

Young people are critical to our operations and form a core part of our strategy. As further proof of this, we rolled out a robust university and college programme in partnership with eight major institutions of higher learning in the country. This resulted in the establishment of the brand ambassador programme with approximately 300 students who have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in the corporate world as well as mentorship and coaching sessions.

The involvement of young people in our business has been tremendous! Through their direct input, we have successfully created a number of revolutionary products and services, many of which we have exported to partner markets across the African continent and also to the Vodafone Global Group.  For example, our e-learning portal JUMP, gives young people the opportunity to fulfil their academic, career and entrepreneurial aspirations by providing useful information and knowledge for free; or our free home delivery service which allows customers to order devices online and have them delivered right at their doorstep; or the My Vodafone App which offers customers the convenience to stay in control of their account whilst on the go with features such as usage history, credit transfer, store locator, and easy topping up with a voucher or debit or credit card; or the Chat+ app which allows customers to make HD app to app calls – all of these have the fingerprints of the youngsters we have given leeway in our organisation.

These innovations have won Vodafone Zambia nine local, regional, and global awards. I mention all this not as a way of showing off but to exemplify what happens when you believe in young people and give them the platform upon which to demonstrate their capabilities. The awards we have garnered are a stamp of approval on the strides we have made to create a business of young people, for young people.

The overwhelming success we have experienced in Zambia has resulted in the organisation being established as the regional hub for the Afrimax-Vodafone Group to support operations of other African markets such as Cameroon, Uganda, and Ghana.

The establishment of this regional hub is unique to Vodafone. A number of other operators design their products and innovations in other countries and bring them into Zambia; not so with us. I believe that this is testimony of the great skill-set that our local team possesses, and provides a unique opportunity for them to share best practice, transfer skills to other markets on the continent, and provide job opportunities both locally and regionally as a way of enhancing talent development.

Zambia is strategically positioned in Southern Africa. Plus, with the tremendous pool of young and focussed talent here, I genuinely believe it can become a ‘Silicon Valley’ in the region – a hub for technological advancement, driving the region and its people into a bright digital future. As we enter 2017, Vodafone Zambia is building and fortifying its relationships with government agencies, other corporates and any other entities that will be willing to share the vision and make it a reality.

 

23 COMMENTS

  1. How much are your charges per MB of data? Why is Internet access in Zambia 3x the cost in Tanzania? If Vodafone is jumping in on the bandwagon and joining the ripping off of Zambians, please do not sing about it too loudly. It’s only in Zambia where citizens are exploited left, right and centre without respite – and the govt just watches.

    • Unfortunately it is the same song and once they capture the market all turn out the usual way. It just does not make sense how expensive these companies charge for their services. It is high time the govt curbed and regulated the pricing too.

    • @ Buckteeth Lungu before you speak on exploitation let me speak on the current ICT business in Zambia –
      1. ISP license in Zambia is $25,000, to acquire, then in order to move/modify your infrastructure you need to pay additional fees to the tune of $65,000 to ZICTA, which are non-refundable. So before you go as far as TZ, Zimbabwe costs are $1,000, same as TZ, Kenya and most of E.Africa.
      2. Unlike our counterparts who have realised the importance of investing in the ICT sector, they have changed the law and allowed private sector participation once Boma have invested. For example Airtel invested $40m in 2016, MTN $200mn to improve the infrastructure, Zamtel’s investment was less than a $1mn and the government have not pumped in revenue.
      3. We currently have the private sector…

    • Lack of infrastructure and policy framework. Tanzania is by the coast therefore, has access to undersea fibre as against inland Zambia which relies on expensive terrestrial links, usually via MPLS, and sometimes Vsat with high latency. Then, there is no deliberate policy on fibre deployment, any player can lay and run anything. Zamtel management is not sure whether they are coming or going.

  2. Boss I dont think you know what you are talking about. Firstly Zambia lacks in areas of digital media training. Secondly, governments over controlling nature means Zambia has not fully open up its mobile communication to the world. Secondly, Zamtel is a joke they customer relations is poor and it lacks professionally. Other Countries in the region are not just sitting down sir they are investing something which our government does not think of. The next Silicon Valley will be Kenya we all know this. Do not make statement to impress the country.

  3. Good. We need more competition to bring the costs down in Zambia. It is a fact Zambia is well positioned in sub-Sahara Africa. It is LAND-LINKED with more neighbouring Countries than any other Country in the region. Hence it is land-rich and NOT landlocked as schools wrongly emphasise.

    The more this fact sinks into Zambians’ heads the better prepared we will be to embrace new opportunities that are begging for regional hubs. E.g. in Civil aviation, in manufacturing of copper-based products and distribution, ..etc..

    It therefore goes without saying Zambia needs to be self- sufficient in electrical energy and NOT depend on power from RSA.

  4. I think a lot of people that have commented here have just failed to refresh their browsers. Life is changing. Did you listen to yesterday’s CSO inflation and GDP growth numbers? You people are so behind and somebody is even talking about ZAMNET. Have you been under the rock or what. That is like talking about UBZ in today’s economy. This have moved on. Here is an extract from yesterday CSO briefing in case you missed it

    ” Mr Kalumbi said Information Communication Technology which is the fastest growing sector at 40.2 percent is also the highest GDP contributor ”

    This article is not misplaced but right on the money, though I agree it has some marketing pollution on it

    • This piece is a PR Stunt to impress gullible Zambians. How can Zambia be the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Southern Africa? Show as the evidence? We are not deny the growth in the Zambia economy but do think we are on course to be Silicon Valley is to deny that countries with lower gdp per capita like Kenya already have super fast broadband connect and in Zambia, we still cant make a reliable Skype connection.

  5. Zambia to be the Silicon Valley of Southern Africa? Tell that to the birds. Our schools use second hand, discarded PCs if they are lucky. Others have one PC to fifty pupils. Teacher training in ICT just began last year. Bundle prices are sky high. What Silicon Valley are we talking about? With which infrastructure?

  6. When someone tells you that they think Zambia your country can be the next Silicon Valley. Which i.d1ot would nominate Kenya instead?

    • This piece is a PR Stunt to impress gullible Zambians. How can Zambia be the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Southern Africa? Show as the evidence? We are not deny the growth in the Zambia economy but do think we are on course to be Silicon Valley is to deny that countries with lower gdp per capita like Kenya already have super fast broadband connect and in Zambia, we still cant make a reliable Skype connection.

  7. Zambia can be the Silicon Valley of Southern Africa if only we got rid of the very sick and backward mentality already being exibited by some of these very ancient creatures that have so far commented that believe only the worst in a Zambian. There are very clever young people who just need a little push with some encouragement instead if these very negative comments. I have a lot if hope in these young people and we are even crossing borders with Technology into Tanzania and Mozambique while you are busy brandishing rubbish on LT.

  8. Silicon Valley in case you don’t have clue is where talented small business owners specialising in the tech industry who could not afford to pay rent for normal office space started operating from. They usually rented garages or small rooms that they could afford within and registered companies that way. Google started from a garage and they connected old computers in parallel to make their saver. I have seen talented young Zambians with little education but with very innovative minds. Don’t stop people from believing in our youth by just bringing negative energy to the table! What are you doing right now to make a difference in our young people other than this ”cannot do” attitude?

  9. Watching closely – looking at JUMP it looks like an opinion / self-help blog i.e. information that you can find for free anywhere on the Internet using Google…

  10. @Ngobola,
    Well spoken. Keep it up. The future belongs to those who see possibilities long before they become obvious to everybody else.

  11. My 2 pence is that before such a dream could be pursued you need the right infrastructure and…. duh …….skills, talent… do we have these or are we on the right track to develop them?

  12. He has a point.

    The Tech development trend in zambia is impressive with a potential of producing gud ICT Engineers in near future.

    In short , government has shown good_will <as evidenced by ICT infrastructure improvement to date) and young generation has embraced ICT in their lives.

    All those doubting Thomas can continue in denial.

  13. Ngobola is right there is to much negativity, destructive criticism, hopelessness, jealousy the list is endless. That is why we are in Mary go round.

  14. ZAMTEL, ZICTA are the main culprits for our ICT’s woes and weaknesses. They are all inept, toothless, incompetent, poorly managed, and require a wholesale cleanup and remanned by smart Zambians with a vision for a winning country. We have enough players on the Zambian ICT scene to make the country better, cheaper communications, and competitive service provisions. One just have to look at ZAMTEL’s Fiber Optic line from Kazungula to Lusaka… It is a scandal that they have such an important link on wooden poles instead of making it most sustainable by burying it like all other smart nations do! They are just a bunch of girl-guides and boy-scouts on a tour and not to make Zambia strong!

  15. If just 10% of the population believed and loved thier country things can change. You don’t need everyone but just need a small percentage of smart honest people with love of country and not money to be in charge.

  16. In south Africa vodacom exploits people with fake data costs every day. Just go to Hello peter or Google. Now Zed has joined the bandwagon

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