By Mark Maseko, National Information Officer, UNIC Lusaka
As part of support in response to COVID-19, the United Nations in Zambia on 9 July 2020 contributed an assortment of digital equipment worth USD 300,000 to the Government of the Republic of Zambia to ensure that critical Government operations are not disrupted during the COVID-19 outbreak. The equipment, which includes 60 laptops and 1,500 wireless routers, will be distributed to nine government departments and agencies. The equipment was procured through funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Zambia. In addition, the UN partnered with mobile phone service provider, MTN Zambia, that provided the wireless routers and initial data bundles.
Speaking during the handover ceremony, which also marked the launch of the Pilot Phase of the Digital Initiative, at the Ministry of National in Lusaka, UN Zambia Resident Coordinator Coumba Mar Gadio called for continued adherence to COVID-19 prevention measures.
“COVID-19 is real. COVID-19 is here. We know through our work in communities that citizens are generally becoming less cautious and not fully adhering to prevention measures. I ask that we heighten our vigilance as we have many examples across the world of how confirmed cases can raise quickly and overwhelm the system and undermine our collective good work. This is not time to relax but time to increase our adherence to the guidelines that have been given by the Ministry of Health,” said Dr Gadio.
And UNDP Zambia Resident Representative Lionel Laurens underscored the importance of digital technology if the fight against COVID-19. “This reminds us of the importance of digital technology. UNDP is proud to partner with the private sector, MTN Zambia, as part of the UN support to the Government’s COVID-19 Multisectoral Contingency Plan, to launch the pilot phase of the digital service project,” he said.
And Minister for National Development Planning Alexander Chiteme said that the equipment would support government communication and operations in line with the need for improved service delivery as outlined in the Seventh National Development Plan. Thanking the United Nations for the contribution, Mr Chiteme said the equipment was timely as the country had commenced preparations of the 8th National Development Plan which needed broad stakeholder consultations.
At the same event MTN Zambia Acting General Manager for the Enterprise and Business Unit Mildred Chica said that MTN was happy to partner with the UN and Government is ensuring business continuity during the COVID-19 period.
Meanwhile, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet and National Coordinator for Smart Zambia Martine Mtonga said the systematic ICT and E- Government implementation has culminated in the establishment of the state-of-the-art National data centre to consolidate e-services.
The United Nations in Zambia is supporting Zambia’s multisectoral response to coronavirus by working across sectors to provide assistance. As part of its support to the government, the UN in Zambia will strongly advocate for both leveraging digital solutions in the fight as well as their mainstreaming in any national recovery or development plans post COVID. It is hoped that the equipment will help minimise disruption in the provision of vital government services to the citizens, in particular, to the most vulnerable people and the most in need.
The country has so far recorded 2, 283 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 84 deaths and 1, 434 recoveries.