Analysis: CLEMENT SINYANGWE
ZAMBIA has in the recent past been blessed with a multiplicity of shopping malls and moving around them has really taught me a lot in terms of peopleâ€™s behaviour. The other day I went window-shopping at one of these malls in Lusaka and what I learnt or experienced really touched me and left me wondering as to whether Zambia is ready for electronic business (eBusiness).
When I reached the mall and began my business I found a man struggling on how to operate the talk-time vending machine. From a distance I could hear this man asking himself a lot of questions on how talk-time is bought on such machines.
I actually got tempted to get closer and almost poked my nose into his business and help him. But just when I moved few steps, there came another man who, without asking the distressed man, went straight into discouraging the man from proceeding with his transaction.
He said, â€œIvi vima machines fivuta mudala, osayesa kufakamo ndlama zako uzalilaâ€, meaning, these machines are a problem my man, never try putting your cash in them or you will cry.
At that point I remained baffled as I looked at the man leaving, but anyway I minded my own business and left. Just after a few minutes, at a till in Pick and Pay supermarket, I witnessed another similar incident where a lady who looked educated, formal and spoke good English moved in front of me, as I was the second on the line, failed to manage paying cash for the trolley full of goods, not because she was broke but just never had enough liquid cash.
This lady asked the till attendant to allow her to leave the till to go and draw money from a nearby ATM outside while leaving a long queue waiting for her to return. At that moment I told myself that whatever the outcome I shall definitely poke my nose in her business. I got ready for the insults to come, if any.
I then quickly, in a polite way, excused myself and asked her what the problem was. The lady explained. I asked her which bank she was banking with, she said Stanbic Bank, and the card was a VISA one though she vowed never to swipe when doing her shopping and never trusted etransactions. She further stated that she thinks it is expensive and not safe as compared to cash transactions.
This day really left me wondering as to whether we are ready as a country for eBusiness, and my questions are: What could be the problem? Have the banks done enough sensitisation and provided security to the citizens over the usage of etransactions? Or is it that the Government has not put in place good policies to ensure control of the charges to these transactions? A lot of questions needs to be answered. However, my own observation is that we are afraid of the unknown. I am one of the people who transact a lot electronically and havenâ€™t seen anything wrong with it.
Online transaction is very convenient and in most cases more secure than cash transaction. I say so because it lessens the risks of carrying huge sums of money which might be stolen as you move around shopping, worse off for the shop owners who have to keep cash for a day or two before they take it to the banks.
What we are seeing in Zambia is resistance to change, banks have tried to encourage VISA transactions to the extent where they even introduce some incentives such as winning fuel if you purchase goods using your cards. I saw similar activities in Game and other shops. Despite these incentives, people still resist.
Maybe the government, through the banks, should put in place some deliberate policies to encourage citizens to start appreciating these services like it is done in other countries.
Yes, I admit that as a country we have a long way to go in as far as ICT appreciation is concerned, and this includes eBusiness. Thank God the government also acknowledges this fact, as stated by Finance Minister Felix Mutati during the budget presentation that: â€œThere is limited broadband infrastructure, low application of ICT in industries, and inadequate skills among citizens are challenges to the attainment of socio-economic development and competitiveness.â€ To this effect, the government is willing to address this challenge by introducing the Smart Zambia project.
This project is aimed at enhancing communication, by providing ICT education to Zambians, increase productivity, improve business transaction, eBanking and eCommerce, reduce business cost through having centralized and standardized government infrastructure.
The government, through eGovernment, is aiming to empower communities through access to ICTs, economic transformation through strategic use of ICTs, operational efficiency & service delivery, ICT skills training, and digital economy which includes eServices, eTax, eVisa, eProcurement and many other electronic services.
It is my hope that very soon every Zambian will appreciate this important move the government has embarked on to gain confidence in eBusiness.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail Limited deputy ICT manager. For any reaction, contributions or comments please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Analysis: CLEMENT SINYANGWE