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Access to Internet: the ceiling breaker for SMEs

[By Conrad Simatimbe]

Internet is said to be a global network of computers operated by governments, companies, universities, and many other business entities.

It is the inter-connection of TCP/IP enabled networks. It is the largest public platform for sharing resources drawn from various autonomous networks. Internet technology uses a wide spectrum of hardware and software such as protocols, cables, computers, data centres, routers, servers, repeaters, satellites, and communication towers that permit digital information to be exchanged around the world.

Since its invention in early 1980s, Internet has evolved and revolutionised too. It has become the leading business communication tool. We are witnesses of the widespread existence of social media platforms such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Linkedn and many others that have come about because of the internet. In addition, Internet has brought about e-learning, e-government, e-commerce, e-mail, and the list goes on. Internet can play a pivotal role in accelerating development. It is a singular tool that can spur development in our country if it is well harnessed. It brings together a wealth of information that SMEs can utilise and make well informed business decisions.

Recently the Government of the Republic of Zambia announced the creation of the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises. It is my considered view that this ministry will have greater influence in as far as wealth creation is concerned. It is this ministry that will be the focal point of employment creation in the country. This is the Ministry for DREAMERS! Yes, the people who have business ideas and want to see their dreams come true. They will unapologetically take risks at anything to make sure their dreams are actualised.

It is this ministry that will be the biggest user of internet services and facilities in the next 5 years. This ministry will require substantial amount of information from all around the world. The world has transitioned into a hive of digital activities, and it is perfect that we have a mainstream ministry to spearhead the technology and science in the country. I hold the view that the coordination between the Ministry of SME and the Ministry of Technology and Science will be more critical and crucial to the successes of the businesses in Zambia.

According to ZICTA (2021) Second Quarter reports, Mobile Internet Users are about 10.2 million, translating into 56 per cent penetration rate. We as a country must target higher Internet access rates and this can only be achieved if we remove obstacles that hinder access to Internet. The biggest obstacle of which is the COST. Yes, the Internet costs in Zambia are still unattainable by the majority Zambians. The government can yield greater dividends if they make deliberate decisions to lower the cost of Internet services in the country. Perhaps a deliberate declaration to make Internet access as a basic human right for all citizens would inspire more players in the economic activities of the country. This has potential to promote investments, creation of innovation and creative hubs, spur research and development and overall, the citizens will make decisions from a well-informed perspective. Access to Internet can help SMEs break the ceiling and become admirably profitable since every activity in the business ecosystem will be backed by plausible information.

In the next article, I will propose how the government can effectively reduce the cost of Internet and help the business environment thrive. The Zambian businesses can compete favourably at global stage if we get it right from the onset by putting Internet and science and technology at the centre of our innovations and entrepreneurial activities.

The author is a seasoned computer communications engineer with vast experience in ICT policing, strategic planning, and execution. He is an ardent researcher in Science and Technology. He holds a Master of Business Administration and a Master of Engineering in Computer Communications, among others. Contact: syakalima@gmail.com, WhatsApp: +260 966 520000.

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