An Evaluation of the licensing regime under the information and communication technologies Act of 2009
Mukonde, Malama Morgan
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It is not a secret that global economies are no longer shaped by huge reserves of natural resources alone because developed economies are driven more by the power of information. After all, information is power. It must be noted that licensing of electronic communications is one of the most important instruments that could be employed in the context of the on going communication sector reform in Zambia. Licensing should evolve to ensure that it remains relevant and beneficial. It is a well known fact that Information and Communication Technology is not an end in itself but is used to achieve commercial and social ends, and it is these that may be changed by technological development in a way which outdates the regulation.In light of technological advances, it is necessary to have in place a strong regulatory framework capable of addressing the interests of both service providers and consumers as well as responding to the social and economic factors prevailing in the country, In summary, it has been identified that the industry practice in Zambia is far ahead of the current legal framework, hence the need for reform. In view of the foregoing, this essay examines the licensing regime under the Information and Communication Technologies Act2 and seeks to advance recommendations on how best it may be reformed so as to address the on going technological developments in the country. The methodology consists of an examination of published and unpublished materials as well as interviews with key personnel at the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority. Firstly, the essay examines the regulatory framework that governed the ICT sector in Zambia prior to the enactment of the ICT Act of 2009. Secondly, it examines the licensing regime under the newly enacted ICT Act of 2009 and lastly, the essay examines the concept of Technology neutrality and its impact on the regulation of the ICT sector at international, regional and national level. The findings indicate that the legal regime prior to the enactment of the ICT Act was inadequate in that, the Communications Authority's autonomy was not insulated against external interference, secondly, it did not provide for issues such as, inter alia, interconnection by service providers and dispute resolution and the licensing regime was not technology and service neutral. It is further established that the ICT Act of 2009 addressed some of the lacunas in the previous legal regime. However, it is concluded that generally the legislation remains unchanged, as for instance the exercise of discretionary power by the minister and the licensing regime not being technology and service neutral.In view of the findings and conclusion, the following recommendations are advanced, inter alia, enhancing the autonomy of the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority, change of the current licence format, change of current regulatory model and finally, vesting the mandate to determine and prescribe licence fees in the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority.
- Law