By Paul Ndiho
Zambia’s increasingly vibrant economy and a growing middle class has seen more people go for smart phones lately and this is rapidly increasing the number of people who can access the internet via their phones.
Drive through downtown Lusaka, and you’ll see traders doing brisk business selling various goods, but what seems to stand out in every other street corner are the many shops opening up to sell mobile phones. The number of Zambians accessing the internet through smart phones has increased rapidly over the last couple years.
Experts say that a booming mobile phone industry in Zambia means that there are more people with handsets than computers, facilitating access to the internet.
“Most of the customers that we have come through to purchase smart phones that have got internet not the ones without internet because nowadays people have migrated to smart phones that has got internet, so we don’t only have the high range, we also have got the cheaper range like the chat-triple-two which is a dual phone and we have launched our hero phone. Our hero phone is a small basic phone but it can connect you to the internet.”
The U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union says Africa has one of the highest growth rates of mobile phone subscriptions and that smartphone growth in Africa has increased by 43 per cent every year since 2,000. Experts say that 69 percent of mobiles in Africa will have internet access by 2014.
Victor Chaushi owns a smart mobile phone and says it has allowed him increased awareness of events happening around the world.
“If it comes to smart phones, I think they are making our lives easier, there is no need for you to go to the internet, all you have to do if somebody sends you an email is just click on your phone and you will be able to see whatever you want to do.”
Ngawo Nankonde, public relations manager for Zambia Information Communication Authority (ZICTA), says the country’s profile of internet users has shot up to 17 percent of the population.
“The introduction of smart phones has really been handy because people are able to have access to the internet without necessarily having to sit at a telecaster which has been set up with the help of ZICTA or any other institution for that matter and we know that especially the youth are the biggest users of these smart phones.”
Nankonde added that domestic mobile telephony in Zambia was set to grow by 80 percent by the end of 2013 and services would expand within other parts of the country.
Zambia has 8 million mobile phone users at the moment, with internet access becoming increasingly available through mobile phones fewer people now depend on internet cafes affecting profits made for some business owners.
“Smart phones have affected our business in that the more people get acquainted with them, the less they need an internet cafe like ours to come and view their internet.”
Banks in the country are also cashing in on the affordable internet connections and are encouraging their clients to use mobile banking.
“Barclays has taken advantage of that as well, and look how we can extend the already existing banking services. So right now, there is what we call Barclays banking mobile, and Barclays tablet banking, where a customer can basically download an application.”
Currently a simple budget smartphone produced for the African market are available on the streets for as little as fifty US dollars.