The Zambia Digital Economy Diagnostic, a new report developed by the World Bank finds that Zambia is making significant strides towards the use of digital tools to achieve the social and economic transformation goals set forth in its Vision 2030. The report commends Zambia’s rapid expansion of mobile network access and the progress made in digitizing government services through SMART Zambia.
“These services, if fully optimized, can bring about increased efficiency in government services directed towards citizens and the business community,” said Ellen Olafsen, the lead author of the report. “The foundation is also now in place to fully leverage digital payments in the public and private sector. This is critical today when contactless transactions and rapid transmission of funds to the vulnerable are vital to Zambia’s COVID-19 resilience.”
The report assesses Zambia’s strengths and weaknesses with respect to five pillars that together form the foundation upon which the benefits of digital transformation can be realized. These pillars are Digital Infrastructure, Digital Skills, Digital Entrepreneurship, Digital Platforms, and Digital Financial Services. The report was developed in collaboration with the Zambia Cabinet Office, seven-line ministries and hundreds of representatives of the Zambian public and private sector.
“Digitization can help us get resources to the vulnerable quickly and transparently,” said Dr. Martine Mtonga, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet for E-Government Division in the Office of the President. “It can also help us reduce the cost of doing business through digitally optimized systems that reduce the time spent to bring goods across the borders and make compliance easy and transparent.”
The launch of the report comes at a time when the advent of COVID-19 has quickly accelerated the use of–and need for–digital tools. More than 20 African countries have launched digitization initiatives in response to COVID-19. Digitalization offers an opportunity for contactless business continuity for small and large business alike; rapid and systematic data collection to support crisis response and recovery planning, and efficient, informed and transparent resource allocation to those who need it most. Data and digital systems can also be effectively utilized to improve agriculture, health and education outcomes in secondary towns and rural areas.
Innovation will be required to drive progress, and the report therefore calls on continued public-private partnership and the creation of a more agile and predictable environment for digital innovators through regular dialogue.
“Digitization combined with reforms can boost productivity in the public and private sector through data-driven decision-making and increased transparency and efficiency,” said Sahr Kpundeh, World Bank Country Manager for Zambia. “The digital economy report is a vital guide to accelerating digital transformation in Zambia, while also ensuring that the safeguards for data security and consumer protection are in place.”
Digitization is however not without risks therefore, the report also recommends that Zambia strengthens cyber security and consumer protection measures. Zambia is one of the first 17 African countries to implement the Digital Economy for Africa (DE4A) Initiative, in which the World Bank has committed to investing $25 billion in Africa’s digital transformation.