Friday, February 26, 2010

Telecommunication cost is high – ZICTA

Telecommunication cost is high – ZICTA
By Florence Bupe
Fri 26 Feb. 2010, 07:50 CAT

THE Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) has observed that the cost of telecommunication services in the country has continued to be among the highest in the region.

And Chilanga member of parliament Ng’andu Magande has said the dominance of foreign players in the telecommunications sector has affected its sustainable growth.

Responding to concerns raised by Lukulu East member of parliament Batuke Imenda on the cost of telecommunication services in Zambia during the sitting of the parliamentary committee on communications, transport, works and supply, ZICTA acting executive director Richard Mwanza acknowledged that service tariffs were still very high.

“ZICTA acknowledges that the cost of using ICT information and communication technology services in the country has continued to be high and needs to be regulated,” Mwanza said. “The tariffs being implemented are still unreasonable.”

Mwanza disclosed that plans were underway to engage a consultant to conduct a cost or service survey, which is expected to cost about US $1 million.

He said countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa and Senegal were performing well in terms of communication service provision because of the willingness by policy makers to institute favourable policies.

Mwanza said the communications and technology sectors had been dominated by a few players, most of whom were foreign backed entities, because they received sound financial support from their countries of origin.

He revealed that most local internet service providers owed the authority huge sums of money in unpaid taxes because they lacked financial support from the government, thereby making their income flow low.

Mwanza urged the government to consider enhancing incentives to local players in the sector, but cautioned that incentives should not be abused but utilised to benefit consumers as well.

And Magande noted that there were too many foreign investors in the telecommunications sector.

“The problem is that in this area, we have too many foreigners and there is a likelihood that money is not staying in the country. There is need to monitor just how much of the money being made is circulating within our economy,” he said.

Magande, who chairs the committee, advised Zambians to enter the communications sector and build a strong capital base to compete favourably with foreign players.

He expressed concern that not many Zambians had shown interest in investing in the sector even when incentives were offered.

“If today we had to allow for tax free importation of technological gadgets, believe me it would not be the Zambians coming forward. We would have foreigners more interested in delivering,” said Magande.

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