As part of the UN System support to Zambia’s COVID-19 response, an assortment of digital equipment worth US$300,000 was handed over to the Government of Zambia to launch the Pilot Phase of the Digital Initiatives to help the country embrace the 'new normal' and combat the novel coronavirus pandemic in a robust manner.
The digital and ICT solutions - 60 laptops, one Firewall and 1,500 devices for internet connectivity known as MiFis – were handed over to the Ministry of National Development Planning for distribution to nine critical government departments and agencies, namely, the Cabinet Office, the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit, SMART Zambia, the Ministry of National Development Planning, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Local Development, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Justice to work remotely and maintain essential public services during the COVID crisis.
The items were procured through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the 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.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the benefits of digital-led public services, which has played a key enabler role in the response. 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,” said Dr. Coumba Mar Gadio, the UN Resident Coordinator in Zambia when she handed over equipment to the government.
“Rebuilding better will require societies where digital transformation plays a critical role in all aspects of the national recovery plans, from the reduction of digital inequality to the development of opportunities leveraged through digital access and the closing of the internet gap,” Dr. Gadio said.
In appreciation, Zambia’s Minister of National Development Planning Alexander Chiteme said the COVID-19 crisis has brought new needs for digital government services and more demand on existing digital services. "This donation could not have come at a more opportune time than now when we are operating in the new normal which requires adequate administrative tools to upscale the usage of digital platforms such as virtual meetings, as opposed to physical interaction, reduction on paper and transacting electronically with stakeholders and clients.”
“The launch of the Pilot Phase of the Digital Initiatives will play a catalytic role for the acceleration of e-governance initiatives in the medium to long term with lasting impacts beyond the delivery of the public service. Through the development of a scale-up programme, questions related to e-trading, e-commerce and digital transformation to close the gap for women and marginalized populations as well as the enhancement of digital financing options and digital inclusion for the most vulnerable groups could be addressed,” said Lionel Laurens, UNDP Resident Representative in Zambia. “UNDP stands ready to support and explore opportunities that will ultimately lead to stronger e-governance capabilities in Zambia.”
UNDP is working closely with the Government of Zambia and within the United Nations System to ensure that assistance is aligned with the country’s national priorities and response strategy. In addition, UNDP is working with the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development through UN Volunteers to deploy community youth volunteers across the country for door-to-door sensitization, as part of a UN system-wide support to strengthen community preparedness and response, thus underlining the fact that to defeat COVID-19, as well as other epidemics, it will take a whole-community approach. Already, with the deployment of 500 community youth volunteers in Lusaka, most-at-risk communities in the capital are taking the lead in the prevention of coronavirus through health and hygiene promotion. The involvement of communities is paying off in the fight against COVID19 as their action and resilience, using lessons from the fight against epidemics such as HIV, TB & malaria to fight COVID-19 are saving lives in #Zambia.
UNDP also provided technical support in terms of training to the Zambia Police Service, culminating in the launch of its Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for COVID-19. The SOP serves to safeguard human rights particularly of vulnerable citizens and provides guiding principles to security and law enforcement officers in responding to the pandemic.