IN THE last fortnight, Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) had a team undertaking consumer and public awareness activities in Muchinga and Northern provinces.
This column looks at some of the activities during this programme as well as issues that were raised by consumers.
The awareness campaign which was undertaken from August 11 to 23, 2014 and covered Nakonde, Isoka, Chinsali, Mpika, Mpulungu, Mbala, Kasama and Luwingu was embarked on in line with ZICTAâ€™s mandate as stipulated in the ICT Act which compels the institution to protect consumers and create awareness.
The team held public forums to which residents in the various districts were invited and sensitised about ZICTAâ€™s regulatory role, including the implementation of the universal access project to connect chiefdoms to ICTs through the installation of communication towers. A number of traditional leaders also attended these informative events.
Interactive media sessions were also part of the programme and held in Kasama and Chinsali to sensitise journalists about the institutions projects and grant them an opportunity to ask questions. Journalists from other districts were also invited to the sessions.
The ZICTA team also took the opportunity to undertake inspections as per mandate granted to the Authority by the ICT Act. During inspections on dealers selling SIM cards in Nakonde, it was discovered that a named service provider was selling activated SIM cards. From a random sample, two mobile phone numbers were found working even though the SIM cards were not registered. In Mbala, another two numbers from the same network were found to be working. From these inspections, a total of 56 SIM cards were confiscated for further verification.
Delayed activation of SIM cards was also one of the main complaints brought to the attention of the ZICTA team as they toured the districts. According to quality of service (QoS) guidelines, a SIM card is supposed to be activated with 48 hours. However, at the time of inspections, some SIM cards were not activated for more than three days.
The team also came across over 40 complaints regarding some substandard phones allegedly being used in a promotion by one of the service providers. Apparently, most of the phones malfunctioned.
In Kasama, centres belonging to all the three mobile service providers which were inspected did not have rump facilities. This is discriminatory against persons with disabilities. Under consumer protection, the ICT Act obligates ZICTA to protect disabled and aged consumers. It is for this reason that ZICTA produces information packs in braille and ensures there is sign language interpreters at its key events to enable the deaf toparticipate in the deliberations.
It was also discovered that none of the three service providers had complaints escalation procedures as per consumer protection guidelines.
When they were in Nakonde and Mbala, the team also observed interference by Vodacom signal coming from across the border.
The awareness programmes will be extended to three more provinces before the end of the year while the remaining five provinces will be covered in the first part of 2015.
It is envisaged that continuous interactive awareness activities will bring the regulator closer to the consumers and members of the general public ,who are key players in the development of the ICT sector in the country.