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Mobile Phones Increase Internet Use In Zambia

posted 3 Jul 2013, 08:21 by Mpelembe   [ updated 3 Jul 2013, 08:22 ]

A rise in the number of Zambians accessing internet through smart phones has contributed to the country's profile of internet users to 17 percent of the population and experts say this is set to revolutionize the country's economy, once considered among the poorest in the world.

LUSAKAZAMBIA (REUTERS) -  In downtown Lusaka traders are doing brisk business selling various goods, but what seems to stand out in every other street are the many shops opening up to market mobile phones.

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.

Access to the vast trove of information on the Internet, and the tools to make use of it, is considered key to lifting economies up the value chain. But countries are often hampered by the vast sums needed to build infrastructure, thorny regulations or geographical terrain.

However 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," said phone store manager, Elizabeth Harry.

The highest growth rate of mobile phone subscriptions is in Africa, where a quarter of the population had a handset as of March 2009, compared to just 1 in 50 Africans in 2,000, according to the U.N.'s International Telecommunications Union.

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," he said.

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 telecenter 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," he said.

Nakonde 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 out 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," said John Limba, who owns and runs an internet cafe in Lusaka.

Banks in the country are also taking advantage of 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 Barclay's banking mobile, and Barclays tablet banking, where a customer can basically download an application," said Simangolwa Shaamambo, head of operations at Barclays bank, Lusaka.

Experts say that smartphone growth in Africa has increased by 43 per cent every year since 2,000 and that 69 percent of mobiles in Africa will have internet access by 2014.

Currently a simple budget smartphone produced for the African market are available on the streets for as little as fifty US dollars.