Information and communications technologies (ICT) is defined in the 2009 Information and Communications (ICT) Act and 2021 National ICT Policy as “the application of modern communications and computing technologies to the creation, management and use of information through the utilization of hardware, software, networks, and media for the collection, storage, processing, transmission and presentation of information and related services”.
The term educational technologies is used in the 2006 National ICT Policy, but no definition of the term is provided.
Constitution and laws: Zambia has a strong legal framework for the regulation of the ICT sector, although legal documents do not explicitly refer to education services. The 2009 ICT Act provides for the regulation of ICTs in Zambia, facilitating universal access to ICTs and protecting the rights and interests of service providers and consumers, with no explicit reference to education services or institutions. Universal access as defined under the Act is “access by all citizens of Zambia to information and communications technology services”.
The 2012 ICTs (Universal Access) Regulations promote universal access of ICT services in Zambia in terms of affordability, accessibility, availability, sustainability and quality of service, with no explicit mention of internet or electricity access (or schools).
The 2021 Electronic Communications and Transactions Act provides for the development of a safe, secure and effective environment for the consumers, business sector and government to conduct and use electronic communications, with no reference to education services.
The 2010 Competition and Consumer Protection Act provides the legal framework for consumer protection in Zambia and ensures that consumers are protected against defective products, unsatisfactory goods and services as well as ensuring that the rights of consumers are upheld, with similarly no mention of education institutions.
Policies, plans and strategies: Although Zambia has no ICT in Education Policy or Strategy, the country has a strong policy and strategy framework for the integration of ICT in the education system.
The 1996 National Policy on Science and Technology originally aimed to embed science and technology as part of the culture of the key sectors (including education), with a mission to promote and exploit science and technology as an instrument for developing an environmentally friendly indigenous technological capacity in sustainable socio-economic development in order to improve the quality of life for Zambia. Education objectives included STEM and digital skills development.
The 2006 National ICT Policy, which highlights the importance of ICT in Zambia’s national development, aims to integrate ICTs in education, research and development as one of its main policy goals and pillars, viewing ICTs as having the potential to improve the quality of education and training through e-learning and online learning. To this end, the policy includes several objectives and policy measures to “facilitate and promote the integration of ICTs within the entire Zambian educational system to support administration, teaching, learning and research”, providing for a significant percentage of the national budget towards the integration and deployment of ICTs in the education system.
The vision of the 2020 National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (which revised the 1996 policy) is a “nation in which Science, Technology and Innovation are the driving force for competitiveness, wealth creation and sustainable national development by 2030”, aiming to strengthen the science and technology framework and to forge closer links between the programmes of the research and development community and the priority sectors of the economy (which include education). Specific policy objectives include strengthening the policy, legal, institutional and operational framework for science technology and innovation, building human resource capacity in science, technology and innovation (including teacher STEM capacity), and ensuring its quality assurance and promotion.
The more recent 2021 National ICT Policy provides a framework for transforming Zambia into a digital economy and knowledge-based information society with ICTs integrated into all aspects of environmental, social and economic development, including the efficient provision of various social services such as education. The overall objective of the policy is to provide a framework that will lead to the development of a dynamic, resilient, competitive, innovative, and inclusive ICT sector that contributes to the sustainable social, economic and environmental wellbeing of the country. This includes enhancing the use of digital platforms, promoting the efficient deployment of ICT infrastructure, improving digital literacy, and enhancing the legal and regulatory environment to be responsive to emerging issues and trends in the ICT sector.
The objective of Zambia ICT Authority’s (ZICTA’s) 2017-21 Strategic Plan is to bridge the digital divide and increase access to all ICT services, with specific education strategies. These include supporting Smart Zambia e-services initiatives for education and developing information, education and communication programmes.
Zambia’s 2022-26 Eighth National Development Plan (8NP) emphasizes science and technology skills development, facilitating investments in ICT and science and technology to support digital transformation and innovation as key enablers under this strategic development area. ICT promotion and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) are highlighted as part of the key education programs for enhancing access to quality, equitable and inclusive education. The plan additionally supports the enhancement of digital capacity in Zambia, which includes ICT infrastructure development digital innovation, digital skills enhancement, and the promotion of digital services.
The 2017-21 Education and Skills Sector Plan includes several ICT objectives for improved system and content delivery, such as the development of STEM training, digital skills, and the enhancement of distance learning.
Zambia’s Vision 2030, whose aim is to attain the status of “a prosperous middle income country by 2030”, states that Zambia should be “a nation in which science, technology and innovation are the driving forces in national development and competes globally by 2030”. This sector vision calls for the country to be, among many others, technologically proficient, fully able to adapt, innovate and invest using its human and natural resources. It thus recognises that science, technology and innovation plays a key role in the development of the country and therefore calls for the need to intensify the development and application of STI to spur industrialisation for socio-economic development.
Digital competency frameworks: ICT competency standards for teachers are included as part of the 2019 Standards of Practice for Teaching Practice for the Teaching Profession and 2016 Competency Framework for Community School Teachers. The 2013 Zambia Curriculum Framework also includes ICT skills as part of the key competencies for learners at primary and secondary level.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: As part of its long-term, post recovery system strengthening objectives, the 2020 Education Contingency Pan for Novel COVID-19 included the capacity building of teachers in technology-based learning, the enhancement of alternative, technology-enabled modes of education, establishment of 8 multimedia centres, creation of video conferencing facilities, strengthening of education broadcasting services, and the connection of 100 schools to the national grid especially in rural areas or solar based mini grids
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
The 2021 National ICT Policy promotes universal access and equitable distribution of ICTs to include vulnerable groups by enhancing efforts aimed at increasing access and usage of high quality and affordable ICT devices and services.
Electricity: The 2006 National ICT Policy supports the development of rural electrification schemes which is stated to be “imperative for schools”. The policy specifically aims for the delivery of integrated infrastructure (including electricity and telecommunications) to be adopted as a deliberate measure during design and construction of schools. The 2020 Education Contingency Pan for Novel COVID-19 additionally aimed to engage ZESCO (the state-owned power company in Zambia) on connectivity of 100 additional schools to the national grid, especially in rural areas or solar based mini grids.
Computers and devices: The 2006 National ICT Policy supports the uptake of computers in schools and the implementation of special schemes and policy measures aimed at promoting affordable acquisition of computers and other ICT products by students, trainers and educational institutions (including reduced tax and tariffs). According to the 2021 National ICT Policy, the government has made notable efforts in facilitating computers in schools at all levels and the use of ICT devices for persons living with disability in education institutions.
Internet connectivity: The 2006 National ICT Policy supports the facilitation of internet access within public and private educational institutions of all levels and the installation of basic communication services in schools. In addition, it makes it mandatory for telephone (fixed and/or wireless) service providers to provide toll-free services to not-for-profit agencies supporting community initiatives in areas such as education. Moreover, ZICTA’s 2017-21 Strategic Plan supports the increase and deployment of broadband services initiatives in education as part of its policy objective to increase access to all ICT services across the country.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
Open and distance learning has a long history in Zambia as part of the country’s alternative education provision for out-of-school children, youths and adults. Education Broadcasting Services (which include radio and television services) were first established in the 1960s with the aim to create an integrated system that would enhance regular classroom learning, while developing possibilities for lifelong learning. The Ministry of General Education has since established its own radio station that is managed by Education Broadcasting Services, with the 2017-21 Education and Skills Sector Plan aiming to use technology-supported solutions to reach more learners. The Open Learning Unit has reached 4,500 out-of-school children, youths and adults, while the Zambia College Of Distance Education (ZACODE) is the main provider of distance secondary education in the country. The 2006 National ICT Policy similarly promotes the development, deployment and utilization of electronic-based distance education, training and learning systems in the Zambian educational system to complement and supplement residential education and training.
During the COVID-19 school closures, the 2020 Education Contingency Pan for Novel COVID-19 aimed to ensure learning continuity through online platforms, radio and television broadcasts and print-based teaching and learning materials. The plan included long-term objectives for post recovery system strengthening, which aimed to strengthen radio and television broadcasting services in rural areas and further integrate ICTs in the teaching and learning process.
One of the objectives of the 2021 National ICT Policy is to improve digital literacy in Zambia, which includes strengthening inter-sectorial coordination in the deployment and inclusive use of ICTs in the education systems including promotion of training uptake, supporting programs aimed at equipping citizens with basic ICT knowledge and skills, and promoting training and upgrading of the skills of specialist ICT professionals. A similar policy goal was highlighted in earlier policies, such as the 1996 National Policy on Science and Technology (which aimed to popularise science and technology among all school students) and the 2006 National ICT Policy, which supported the strengthening of science and technical education as the basis for human resource and skills development in ICT and the mainstreaming of ICT teaching at all education levels. This included facilitating the integration of computer skills into the teaching and learning process of all education levels, developing a national ICT curriculum and qualification system at all education levels, and developing partnerships with the private sector and other stakeholders in the quest for increased ICT literacy. Similar objectives are highlighted in the 2017-21 Education and Skills Sector Plan, which aims to equip young people with 21st century skills and contribute to national development, which include ICT and digital literacy skills. The 2022-26 Eighth National Development Plan (8NP) supports further investments in building digital skills for youth (including science and technology skills) and the enhancement of the country’s digital capacity. ZICTA’s 2017-21 Strategic Plan further aims to promote cyber security education through the development of educational and training programmes to enhance user awareness of risk and cyberspace. Similarly, the 2021 National Cybersecurity Policy aims to Incorporate cybersecurity education and awareness in the curriculum, while the 2020 National Child Online Protection Strategy aims to incorporate child online protection training in the school curriculum.
The 2013 Zambia Curriculum Framework defines specific ICT competencies for learners at primary and secondary level, which include understanding, interpreting and applying mathematical, scientific and technological concepts. Technology studies are also included as part of the core learning areas across all education levels.
The development of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is highlighted across several government documents, with a focus on gender. The 2022-26 Eighth National Development Plan (8NP) promotes STEM and digital skills development in institutions of learning, as part of its policy objective of enhancing access to quality, equitable and inclusive education, while the 2017-21 Education and Skills Sector Plan places emphasis on the development of global market skills such as science, mathematics, technology, innovation, entrepreneurship and strategic leadership training and the improvement of STEM education. The strategy additionally aims to eliminate gender disparities in STEM programs through sensitization campaigns, targeted bursary support, and quota allocations to female learners. Similar gender objectives were highlighted in the 1996 National Policy on Science and Technology which aimed to review the school and college curricula on science and technology to make it gender sensitive, promote science and technology subjects in girls schools by making the subjects compulsory, increase the numbers of girls who take up science and technological subjects at all levels of learning, identify and eliminate factors that prevent females from progressing and excelling in science subjects, establish special funds and scholarships to be used for awarding females for their education in the science and technical fields, and provide incentives to female teachers in science and technology. The 2006 National ICT Policy similarly promoted ICT as an alternative career for youth and women in the informal and formal educational system.
The 2016 Competency Framework for Community School Teachers includes the ‘application of modern technology’ as one of the key teacher competencies, with teachers expected to apply a wide range of effective teaching strategies with the use of available ICT to foster both independent and collaborative learning. Performance indicators include teachers applying knowledge of ICT for effective teaching and learning of appropriate concepts and using a range of available ICT to support learning experiences. ICT competency standards for teachers are also included as part of two standards in the 2019 Standards of Practice for Teaching Practice for the Teaching Profession. This includes a standard for teachers to develop and use relevant, sustainable and innovative teaching and learning materials including ICT and another to facilitate the development and usage of relevant, sustainable and low-cost teaching and learning materials including ICT. Teachers are additionally expected to promote the use of innovative teaching practices and learning resources, including ICT.
Pre-service teacher training in ICT skills is supported by the 2006 National ICT Policy and 2013 Zambia Curriculum Framework. The 2017-21 Education and Skills Sector Plan highlights the continuing professional development of teachers in STEM subjects by strengthening and transforming the National Science Centre (NSC) in order to improve service delivery in science, mathematics and technology education across all education levels. During the COVID-10 outbreak, the 2020 Education Contingency Pan for Novel COVID-19 further aimed towards the capacity building of teachers towards technology-enabled learning approaches.
2.4.1. Data privacy
The 2021 Data Protection Act provides for the use and protection of personal data, regulating the collection, use, transmission, storage and otherwise processing of personal data. It does not explicitly refer to education institutions or services, but applies to ‘public bodies’ which could include public education institutions. The 2021 Cyber Security and Cyber Crimes Act promotes education and awareness of the need for and importance of cyber security (Article 5), but does not consider it an offence if public institutions collect information with regard to education (Article 62). The vision of the 2021 National Cybersecurity Policy is for a “secure and resilient Zambian cyberspace by 2030”.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
The 2020 National Child Online Protection Strategy aims for every child to have the right to access quality safe and secure ICTs in education and other social services regardless of their sex, physical condition, rural or urban, vulnerable or not, orphaned or not, in school or out of school. It supports schools developing online codes for child online protection (including against cyberbullying and online abuse) and for 90% of educational institutions to be compliant to child online protection standards bu 2024. ZICTA’s 2017-21 Strategic Plan further supports collaboration with key stakeholders in promoting awareness and strategies to protect children against online vices.
The Ministry of General Education (MoGE) has a mandate to “promote science, technology and innovation education”, in addition to being responsible for ensuring the mainstreaming of child online protection programs in schools and educational institutions. The Department of Open and Distance Education (under the Ministry), which has been promoting alternative modes of education provision in Zambia since the country’s independence, has three units: 1) Open Learning Unit, (2) Distance Learning Unit, and 3) Educational Broadcasting Services (EBS) Unit. The Open Learning Unit coordinates and promotes the provision of education to out-of-school youths and adults through face-to-face modes of education delivery in order to increase equitable access to education and skills training in schools for continuing education. It also provides flexible education opportunities through open learning classes, evening classes, and education for correctional facilities’ inmates. The Distance Learning Unit includes the Zambia College of Distance Education (ZACODE), whose function is to provide secondary distance education through Self-Learning Materials (SLM), which are also called Study Modules. Finally, the Educational Broadcasting Services (EBS) Unit (initially established in the 1960s) is responsible for designing, developing and producing educational Interactive Instructional lessons using the electronic media and ICT gadgets such as computers, laptops and video conferencing. EBS is subdivided into two units, namely, Educational Radio in Lusaka and Educational Television in Kitwe.
The Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) is an autonomous body established under the 2009 ICT Act to regulate the ICT sector and postal and courier services sectors in Zambia and implements government policy in the regulation of the ICT sector. ZICTA is also responsible for promoting cyber security and combating cyber-crime in Zambia.
The National Science and Technology Council promotes and regulates science and technology so as to “improve the quality of life in Zambia”. Its functions include regulating research in science and technology, such as the registration of research and research development institutions and initiating special projects.
There is currently no national policy which regulates the use of mobile phones in schools, although the Ministry is considering including the mobile phone regulatory measure as it revises the Education Policy and has given guidelines to schools that the use of the cell phones should not interfere with the learning of students.