This week, we get a reminder on what Zambia Information Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA) is doing to promote access to Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) for all and especially for Persons with disabilities (PWDs).
Persons with disabilities are some of the most vulnerable of our communities in Zambia. This is due to the fact that they are a minority group whose special needs sometimes do not receive adequate attention. However, over the past four decades or so, many societies have re-evaluated their treatment of PWDs and taken some measures to address the structural injustices that such persons have suffered for generations.
One of the landmark actions that marked a shift in societyâ€™s approach to the rights of PWDs was the declaration of the United Nations (UN) Decade of Disabled Persons (1983-1992), which culminated in the adoption by the UN in December 1993 of The Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities.Â Zambia is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Furthermore, ZICTA has also domesticated article 9 in the ICT code of conduct for Service Providers and Consumer Protection Guidelines in order to protect the rights of PwDs when accessing ICT products and services.
Included in ZICTAâ€™s Action Plans for 2015, is to undertake nationwide inspections of the Customer Service areas for all service providers in the ICT and Postal sectors to check for compliance of making these areas accessible for persons with disabilities.
Before the beginning of the year, ZICTA hosted workshops for persons with disabilities and key stakeholders in Lusaka and Copperbelt provinces respectively, with the purpose of collecting as much information as possible which would assist in reviewing the regulatory regime in relation to consumers who fall under this category.
The workshops targeted government agencies, Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOâ€™s), regulators, mobile and internet service providers, equipment manufacturers, software developers, Professional organizations, the private sector, academic and research organisations, learning institutions and organisations that have had initiatives to address issues related to Persons with Disabilities, and the banking sector (regulator, Ministry of Finance and banking institutions).
Challenges faced by PwDs when accessing ICTs; their needs as consumers of various ICT products and services were a priority area of discussion during the workshops. This is due to the fact that PwDs are an integral part of socio-economic development of the country and must not be marginalised by the lack of access to ICTs.
It is evident that a number of persons with disabilities are cognizant of the obstacles they face in their efforts to use ICTs and they are also keenly aware of their constitutionally recognised right to access ICTs.
As the regulator, ZICTA with the assistance of the line ministry â€“ Ministry of Transport, Works, Supply and Communication, is now working to fill the Policy, Legal and Regulatory gaps which were identified, in order to facilitate accessibility to ICT products and services to PWDs.
Another area which the regulator is working on this year is the mapping of disabilities to ICT products and services that enhance e-accessibility. These issues will be tackled before the next workshop which has now become an annual activity.
In creating more awareness among persons with disabilities about the available initiatives to promote universal access to ICT services, ZICTA has identified the media and various organisations working with PWDs as key stakeholders and will soon engage them in assisting in the sensitisation programmes.
For further information
The applicants can access our ZICTA or (onlinesystems.zicta.zm)
email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us on the following telephone numbers 0211 244424,244427 or 241236.