CHARLES CHISALA, Ndola
CHISANGA Chombe, a Lusaka-based employee of the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA), bends over a partly dismantled electronic gadget on the polished surface of his work table.
Gingerly, his trained fingers work around two delicate white threads that look as if they could snap at a mere touch, completely oblivious of the curious strangers standing in front of him.
A smiling Mr Chombe later explains that he is preparing for an international technology competition in Abu Dabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
He says the newly -completed national Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Centre of Excellence has made his preparations easy with its top-notch, state-of-the-art equipment, latest technology and technical expertise.
“I am joining optic fibre cables. The centre is preparing me adequately for the competition because it has everything I needed,” Mr Chombe says.
Mr Chombe is one of the proud beneficiaries of the ICT Centre of Excellence at the new-look, extensively refurbished Zambia ICT College, formerly Zamtel College in Northrise, Ndola.
The centre boasts of world-class ICT training equipment and a cadre of highly trained staff.
Government has invested US$13 million (about K120 million) in the magnificent facility as part of the march towards a ‘Smart Zambia’.
Little wonder the Seventh National Development Plan states on page 81, “Government will accelerate the mainstreaming of ICT in the Zambia education curricula to ensure sustainable development and utilisation.”
President Lungu raised the bar when he addressed the Second Session of the 12th National Assembly on September 15, emphasising the critical role ICT is expected to play in accelerating Zambia’s socio-economic development.
“In 2015, I launched the ‘Smart Zambia’ agenda, which entailed embracing the use of information and communication technologies and innovations in the delivery of public services.
“Government has established the Smart Zambia Institute to spearhead the transformation of government operations into a ‘Smart Government’,” he said.
President Lungu announced that Government is implementing an electronic system across all government ministries, and that Cabinet business will soon be conducted under a paperless environment.
In May this year-Vice-President Inonge Wina told the Transform Africa 2017 summit in Kigali, Rwanda, that Zambia was steadily developing its ICT sector by introducing ICT as a compulsory subject in all schools so that the younger generation can be introduced to technology at a tender age.
The ZICT College looks poised and equipped to provide the impetus to turn these pronouncements into reality, reaching a point where a marketeer at Chisokone or City Market, and a street vendor, will simply use his or her mobile phone or swipe with a debit card to sell tomatoes or second-hand clothes.
ZICT College and ICT Centre of Excellence executive director Betty Bweupe is confident that she and her team of dedicated staff have the capacity to help President Lungu’s administration achieve the vision of a ‘Smart Zambia’.
“I am urging public and private universities and colleges offering courses in ICT to take advantage of this state-of-the-art facility for training,” Ms Bweupe said.
The centre has a massive server room-cum-control unit, spotlessly clean, sound-proofed, high-tech lecture rooms and large, fully-equipped computer laboratory.
China’s technology giant Huawei has equipped the facility with the latest, world-class ICT equipment and technology.
“We have top-notch, state-of-the-art ICT equipment, top-notch infrastructure and uninterrupted high-speed internet which other training institutions can take advantage of and leverage on,” Ms Bweupe said.
She thanked the Ministry of Communication and Transport, the ZICT College board and ZICTA for their support.
The ICT Centre of Excellence boasts of:
• Learning management systems (LMS) – Has the capacity of hosting an unlimited number of online or distance learning students and users simultaneously who are able to access the content for all programmes through the LMS
• Classrooms – State-of-the-art audio and video conferencing, distance learning and high-definition video teleconferencing capabilities
• Two multimedia classrooms – Can seat up to 100 students in a classroom setting with video conferencing screens, multimedia audio systems, smart boards and instructor podium for lectures and presentations
• ICT equipment – Laptop computers running on windows operating systems and installed with the office suite are available for use by students during lessons and video conferences
• ICT laboratory – Equipped with latest technologies in routing and switching, storage, unified communication, WLAN, video conferencing and network security training
• Server room – High-speed server hardware and extensive storage for web services and remote backup with uninterrupted 24-hour internet connectivity protected by multi-level firewalls.
“This is a big opportunity universities and colleges in Zambia can take advantage of. An unlimited number of distance learning students can be administered via our ICT learning management system. These institutions can create a teaching centre here at Zambia ICT College where they can deliver live video conferencing lectures to their distance students throughout Zambia,” Ms Bweupe said.
The man in charge of the equipment and systems, David Mumba, says the centre can deliver ICT training to millions of students in multiple places in Zambia and abroad at the same time.
“Since we have electricity backup with huge capacity there is uninterrupted internet connectivity, which means students and lecturers can do their work at the time of their own convenience,” Mr Mumba said.
He assured that the expensive equipment is protected by high-tech anti-fire technology, which is able to detect fire and automatically put it out on its own.
The Zambia ICT College, which was selected to host the centre, is owned by the Zambian government through the Ministry of Communications and Transport and registered with the Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TEVETA) as a class one institution.
It was handed over to the Government in 2010 and is managed by and funded through ZICTA.
Head of business development Geoffrey Mumba says the college is expecting the number of students to increase to 2,500 next year from the current 800.
Mr Mumba encouraged universities and colleges to tour the centre to appreciate its capacities and have a feel of a world-class ICT training environment.
If this multimillion dollar facility is fully utilised the ‘Smart Zambia’ dream is only a whisker away from becoming a reality.