Brenda Nglazi Zulu

Access To Information Bill – Take it to Parliament

I would like to have access to the draft Information Communication Technology (ICT) National Policy and also a report on why social media was restricted on poll day on 12th August 2021. This information is held by public bodies. The right to access such information held by public bodies will be empowered by the enactment of the Access To Information (ATI) bill into law.

The draft ATI bill has limited exceptions on what kind of information public bodies are supposed to share with citizens. Zambia has a good draft ATI bill. This encompasses a right to request and receive information, as well as an obligation for governments to publish information proactively even on their websites and social media sites.

We are in a digital era where there is easy movement of information. If citizens want to apply for a passport for instance, the passport office could easily make the application papers available online. The citizens would have access to the passport application form (information) online. Even issues of eCommerce would apply were necessary.

The best example would be the Patent And Company Registration Agency (PACRA) website which delivers all kinds of Business Registration Services application forms online. Already they have continued to help many Zambians have access to information.

There is need for government websites to be created and be made functional by uploading information for the citizens to access. There is need for government to have standardised email addresses for every civil servant. It sad to see Yahoo and Gmail dominate as email addresses for government workers in Zambia for government business. The domain name has stalled and government needs to revive it by making sure all government workers drive traffic home by using the domain name.

The ATI will empower the digitalisation of documents by the public bodies that the citizens may need to access.

For the past 20 years Zambia has failed to enact the (ATI) bill. The Movement for Multiparty and Democracy (MMD) and the Patriotic Front (PF) governments made promises to enact the ATI bill but failed and left a draft copy.

The draft ATI bill was picked up by United Party for National Development (UNDP) in the new dawn government.

President Hakainde Hichilema has said that the ATI should be enacted. The draft bill has been relooked at by the Government, citizens, the media and Civil Society Organisations (CSO). Those eyes are not enough as the Ministry of Information and Media wants to consult people in the 10 provinces over the ATI bill. This act of taking the bill to the provinces was done already in the past 20 years.

Let’s take the ATI bill to Parliament.


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