Saturday, May 17, 2008

Making ICT accessible to all

Making ICT accessible to all
By Editor
Saturday May 17, 2008 [04:00]

The highest level of political thought was reached when some men became aware that the fruits of the efforts and intelligence of each human being should reach all others. As we celebrate World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, there is need for us to realise that globalisation is an objective reality underlining the fact that we are all passengers on the same vessel – this planet where we all live. But passengers on this vessel are travelling in very different conditions.

A trifling minority is travelling in luxurious cabins furnished with the internet, cell phones and access to global communication networks. They enjoy a nutritious, abundant and balanced diet as well as clean water supplies. They have access to sophisticated medical care and culture.

The overwhelming and suffering majority is travelling in conditions that resemble the terrible slave trade from Africa some centuries ago. That is, the great majority of the passengers on this ship are crowded in its dirty hold, suffering hunger, disease and helplessness.

Obviously, this vessel is carrying too much injustice to remain afloat, pursuing such an irrational and senseless route.

It is our duty to take our rightful place at the helm and ensure that all passengers can travel in conditions of solidarity, equity and justice. But to achieve this, communication has to improve.

Those at the lowest levels have to catch up. And World Telecommunication and Information Society Day heralds the enabling and transformative role of communications and information in societies, and the universal need to communicate and cooperate across borders.

It is also the day in 1865 when the International Communication Union (ITU) was founded. At the time, the idea to transmit electronic signals across wires had already set forth a dramatic chain reaction of competing technologies.

ITU was formed to address the growing need for international standards. From these early days, ITU has played a key role in connecting the world, a challenge which continues today with 3G Mobile and Broadband technologies.

Yet the reach of telecommunication technology is not universal; it’s benefits have not been shared equally.

The theme of this year’s observance, “Connecting persons with disabilities”, highlights the importance of making information and communication technologies (ICT) equipment and services accessible to meet the needs of persons with disabilities.

This may not seem to be much of an issue in nations like ours where the majority of the people without disabilities have no reasonable access to ICTs. But we shouldn’t forget that it is important to remember that any one can be disabled at any moment.

It is vital, therefore, that as we develop our ICTs, we from the start take into account the needs of persons with disabilities and ensure their right to fully participate in the information society.

And we should work towards acquiring communication technologies that will be inclusive and accessible to all. Everyone must have the opportunity to participate in the digital age. And no one should be denied the potential benefits of ITC, not least because they are hampered by their disabilities.

As ICT bring a range of innovations in the workplace, at home and in every facet of our lives, these benefits must also be harnessed for the benefits of persons with disabilities.

There is need for us to address the special requirements of persons with disabilities along with other marginalised and vulnerable groups in our national e-strategies.

There is need for us to promote the universal ubiquitous, equitable and affordable access to ICT and ensure that the benefits are evenly distributed to bridge the digital divide by creating digital opportunities to harness the full potential for development offered by state-of-the-art ICT.

There is need for us to pay reasonable attention to meeting the ICT needs of persons with disabilities by aiming to empower every citizen with information and knowledge, improving the lines of communication to the remotest and most vulnerable groups, and building an inclusive information society geared towards the advancement of a better, more peaceful and productive nation.

As we celebrate World Telecommunication and Information Society Day, we invite the nation to join us in our endeavour to provide Zambia with high-speed wireless broadband internet services and communications solutions.

Next month, through Post ISP Zambia, we will be launching high-speed wireless broadband internet services and communications solutions to cater for both corporate and individual clients.

The move to establish Post ISP Zambia was prompted by the continued complaints of extremely low internet connectivity speeds on account of old technology deployed by our current providers of internet services. The failure to deploy latest technology has resulted in low market penetration, high roll out costs and inefficient service provision which have been passed on to the users leading to prohibitively high costs of accessing the service.

In response to this, Post ISP Zambia has acquired and will be rolling out superior equipment based on WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) technology, which not only provides a cost-effective roll out advantage, but will help boost internet access among our people and will work towards bringing down the cost of service provision in this sector.

This technology will enable Post ISP Zambia to provide other new services not limited to broadband internet access, such as IPTV, backhaul for Wi-Fi hotspots, VoIP, and many more.

And even though currently Zambia has seven ISPs, there are still many segments of our country that are underserved or poorly served or not served at all with regard to internet speeds and connectivity. Post ISP Zambia will provide a key service to our people by being the catalyst for e-mail commerce development, low-cost internet services and increased web interaction with the world.

Post ISP Zambia will be able to tailor design services to fit many different needs. Consulting, web hosting, internet security, and maintenance are all add-on services that can add to the broad product range that Post ISP Zambia will offer.

It is envisioned that with the launch next month of Post ISP Zambia, the nation will finally have a service provider that plans to grow with the community and understands its needs.

In this way, we hope to contribute to making the reach of communication technology universal and its benefits shared equally.

With Post ISP Zambia, we hope to contribute to the linking of ICT with human development and contribute to the building of a global inclusive, people-centred and development-oriented information society through the sharing of information and knowledge.

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