Monday, April 30, 2007


Making Life Better

The slogan of Celtel a Mobile Cellular Phone Service Provider in Zambia is ‘Making Life Better’. According to Celtel, the provision of Mobile cellular phone services to all corners of the country is a way of contributing to the betterment of Zambians. However, Celtel is not the only provider of Mobile cellular phone services in this country; there are two others, Zamtel and MTN, Collectively they hold the view that their services are not only the answer to Zambia’s communication needs but also to its Social and Economic ills.

Taking the credit for the presence of these Service Providers however is the Movement for Multiparty Democracy MMD, a party that has been in power since 1991 and introduced the liberalization policies that brought in many changes to the various social and economic sectors of the country. Civil Society Organizations in the country however have constantly argued that the liberalization policies have contributed a great deal to the rise of poverty levels in the country, at the wide end of the poverty threshold are women and children.

This Research Project aims to explore the various factors involved in the dynamics of provision of the communications service, the Research Process involved probing the effects of the service on the communities which had previously not had the technology, observing the cultural, social and economic changes which have been observed and can be related in a way to the provision of the service.

The project also intends to find the place of women in the process by questioning their position at the various stages of provision or decision-making. The following sectors have been a major focus of the research: Government, Interest Groups (Ruling and the opposition Parties), Civil Society, Mobile Cellular Phone Service Providers and Ordinary Mobile Cellular Phone Users.

1. Government
The Government in Zambia through its provision of services and implementation of policies has the task of keeping abreast with modern developments in the communications industry. The major hindrance to the development of the communications and media industry has been the Government’s policies forged by concerns of National Security and State control, and this has been a major preoccupation of government vs. Civil Society conflicts. At the moment, the Communications Authority a wing of Government tasked to regulate communications services has developed a confidential document recommending to the government to amend laws related to communication, the chapter would briefly focus on these facets as they have affected access by ordinary people.

2. Interest Groups (Ruling and the opposition Parties)
Political parties have provided alternative models to the current status of the nation, the research process will probe a few that relate to women and communications vis-а-vis the Governments current interventions.

3. Civil Society
Civil Societies work for the common good of all Zambian citizens can be valuable in the probe on its work towards empowerment of women, the research process intends to give an insight on it’s work.

4. Mobile Cellular Phone Service Providers
The Service providers in Zambia have the opportunity to provide an opportunity for women; the research will view the various challenges they face; experiences, their expectations, view on possibilities, opportunities and their suggestions for national development through ICTs.

5. Users
Users have various views on how they are affected by the ICT service; the research will share their experiences and question whether ‘User’ has or must have a gender.

The Zambia GRACE Research will contribute to the discussions on whether life can, is, isn’t or won’t be better for Women in Zambia through Mobile Cellular Phones.


The GRACE Research Zambia Project on Mobile Cellular Phone Service Provision and the Advancement of Women in Zambia is a sub project of the overall Gender Research in Africa into ICT for Empowerment GRACE. The Project comprises 15 subprojects, reflecting 14 research sites in 12 countries. The 2-year project is being implemented by the International Development Research Center- Canada and the Research for the Future- South Africa.

Problem Statement
Until recently Cell phone usage in Zambia was very limited with coverage only in urban areas. Three companies now provide the service and there has been a growth in its usage. There are more than 1,000,000 users of mobile cellular phones in the country; the service can be accessed across the country, translating to access to phone services where infrastructure for conventional telephone lines has not been built. People in remote areas are now within reach.

The general aim of the Zambia project is to explore how the Provision of Cell Phone Services affects the advancement of women in Zambia by examining the experiences of cell phone service providers, policy makers and women’s empowerment organizations.


The knowledge construction process informing the research is central to the results. In order to achieve a sense of women’s realities, the researcher designs a methodology grounded in the enhancement of critical reflexivity towards self and others and their creativity. The research questions and methodologies are grounded in the principles of action research. Emphasis is on qualitative research techniques and Appreciative inquiry.


The on-going project will contribute to debates focusing on women’s empowerment and ICTs through finding its own understandings of what “empowerment” and “gender” may mean in multiple African ICT contexts. The lessons learnt will be shared with policy makers and educators in the form of contextualized and local-specific recommendations.

Conclusions and Recommendations
The Research process is nearing its final stages and the results continue to form a pattern that suggests many possibilities for constructive uses of ICTs for the benefit of women and the need for policy intervention to regulate corporate influence on the quality and the nature of services.

The Gender Research in Africa into ICTs for Empowerment (GRACE) project aims to explore the ways in which women in Africa use ICTs to empower themselves, the external, structural barriers as well as the internal factors which prevent or enable them to use ICTs to their advantage, and the strategies they employ to overcome these impediments. The research is highly original on two levels: the subject matter and the research coordination approach.

The project comprises 14 sub-projects, reflecting 14 research sites in 12 countries. While coherent with the general aim of the overall research initiative, the sub-projects differ from each other greatly in terms of target group and research focus. Furthermore, the concepts of gender and empowerment which frame the project’s general direction and commitment do not have unequivocal meaning within the sub-projects.

The project aims to contribute to debates focusing on women’s empowerment and ICTs through finding its own understandings of what “empowerment” and “gender” may mean in multiple African ICT contexts. The lessons learnt will be shared with policy makers and educators in the form of contextualized and local-specific recommendations.

The approach to the knowledge construction process informing the work is central to the results. In order to achieve a sense of women’s realities in the 12 countries, the focus of the approach taken has been to create the space for the14 research teams to develop their own methodology grounded in the enhancement of their critical reflexivity towards self and others and their creativity. The research questions and methodologies, the research trainings, as well as the ongoing mentoring and support programme accompanying the research are grounded in the principles of critical emancipatory research, better known as action research. Because very little research has taken place in Africa into gender, empowerment and ICTs, emphasis is placed on the use of qualitative research techniques as these techniques yield in-depth data and are able to highlight the various dimensions and aspects of the phenomena.
An important focus of the overall project is capacity building. Researchers are being provided with opportunities to develop research capacity as well as capacity to use ICTs effectively. The project made provisions for intensive training and ongoing mentoring and support. It endeavours to integrate the research and the ICT aspects into a holistic capacity building experience for the participants. Longer term objectives include:
The formation of a research network that can do ongoing gender, empowerment and ICT research in Africa.
The establishment of a research base in various institutions throughout Africa that can contribute to the debates around gender, empowerment and ICT issues.
Public policy influence at local, national and regional/global levels.
Capacity building workshops were held in July 2005 and June 2006, with a third workshop planned for July 2007. At the first workshop the GRACE researchers consolidated their methodological approaches, learnt how to use a qualitative analysis ICT tool (NVivo), gained other advanced ICT and knowledge networking skills, learnt how to use digital cameras and recorders and how to edit sound and images using their computers. The second workshop focused on enhancing research-writing skills and provided an opportunity for focused discussion on the research conducted.
Site visits were made by the Research Director prior to the second workshop. The project coordinator also worked closely with each research team through their design and implementation of their individual research strategies. This has been followed by detailed responses to draft research reports and chapter abstracts, ongoing provision of relevant literature recommendations, and discussion of issues and analysis. Online communications are conducted via a specific research-space list and directly between the research coordination team members and the researchers. Results will be documented in a professionally edited online and printed publication.

This 2.5-year project (April 05-Sept 07) is being implemented by Research for the Future, based in Cape Town.

Contact Details:
Kiss Brian Abraham
P.O Box 32295
Lusaka, Zambia 10101
Phone: +260 977 474801

Contact Details:
Ineke Buskens
GRACE Africa Project Leader and Research Director