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Building Zambia’s digital economy foundations through Digital Public Infrastructure, By P. Chinyama, E.Khisa, L.Mate and G Nhongo


In recent years, Zambia has actively sought to foster digital inclusion and transform its ICT and innovation ecosystem, with the latest move being the signing of the Electronic Regulation Statutory Instrument (SI) No 43 of 2023 by H.E. President Hakainde Hichilema in October 2023.

The regulation which strengthens the role of the Electronic Government Division also known as Smart Zambia Institute (SZI) is in line with the government’s vision of prioritising digital transformation by leveraging technology for the enhancement of the well-being of the citizenry through enhanced public service delivery and also making it the bedrock of Zambia’s economic progress.

Among the initiatives of this digital transformative journey is the adoption of a strategy for Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) supported by the Centre for Digital Public Infrastructure and Co-Develop.

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2024 promises to be a significant year with the signing of an MOU in 2023 between IIIT-B’s Centre for Digital Public Infrastructure and SZI to support the Division in implementing specific DPI use-cases in Zambia to scale them country-wide.

Zambia’s commitment to leveraging technology for inclusivity is evident in SZI’s 2023 – 2026 Strategic Plan whose vision statement is to be “a leader in digital transformation and inclusiveness”.

DPI’s pillars of Digital ID and registry, digital payments, and secure data exchange are key to fostering inclusivity, especially in rural and remote areas.

This is expected to improve efficiencies within government, bring citizens into the broader digital economy, and also reduce the collective cost of digital transformation through shared infrastructure. The move towards a unified and digital framework promises to empower citizens, enhance government services, and foster economic growth, which can only bode well for Zambia’s development and economic growth.

As countries take these big steps forward in their digitisation, this also offers a new way of engaging citizens in this important transformation. Genuine engagement will help increase trust and make these systems more accessible to people.

Understanding Digital Public Infrastructure

The concept of DPI revolves around creating a reusable and foundational technology base, akin to the shared infrastructure that powered economies in the physical world such as highways, power lines, railways, or even internet infrastructure.

It serves as the backbone for a digital economy, providing the necessary layers for innovative solutions to flourish. This approach not only streamlines government operations but also encourages private-sector innovation, ultimately driving economic prosperity.

Historically, shared public infrastructure like roads, electricity, and telephony has been instrumental in powering government services and private economic activities globally. In the digital era, the emphasis shifts to creating a robust foundation that can support various technological advancements, making it a critical component for sustained growth and progress. Underpinning these foundational pieces are tenets known as DPI principles namely; interoperability based on open standards, reusable and minimalist building blocks, privacy by design, federated instead of centralised architecture, and market-driven innovation ecosystem.

Fostering inclusion and progress within Zambia

One significant use case for DPI in Zambia lies in having a national digital eKYC platform using data from a trusted federated database to offer online identity services. This service will have various uses across sectors ranging from agriculture to select eligible farmers participating in the government’s Farmers Input Support Programme (FISP).

Financial services is another sector which would largely benefit from this initiative where currently each institution is investing in its own eKYC and customers have to submit the same data to the service providers. This would be alleviated to create a more efficient, coordinated and shared and growth-oriented system.

Digital public infrastructure also plays a pivotal role in optimising social security remittances to beneficiaries. Zambia commits to enhancing its social services delivery system through DPI by ensuring efficient government-to-person (G2P) payments and reducing leakage by ensuring the correct identification of beneficiaries.

Through secure and efficient digital payment systems, beneficiaries receive their entitlements promptly, reducing delays and ensuring financial stability for vulnerable populations. Timely support will be received by the Zambians that need it most.

Delivering citizen services

Moreover, DPI acts as a catalyst in breaking down silos within government and related agencies by encouraging the creation of data registers. By creating a seamless digital ecosystem, information sharing becomes more efficient, leading to better collaboration and decision-making.

This streamlined approach not only improves public services but also enhances the overall governance structure. This also creates the foundation for government services to be digitised thus making them more accessible to Zambians in an efficient manner. With the right levels of data exchange, Zambia will deliver services across the country also ensuring inclusivity and closing the economic divide.

Zambia’s embrace of Digital Public Infrastructure signifies a forward-thinking approach to building a resilient digital economy.

The concept of shared foundational layers opens avenues for creativity, innovation, and collaboration between the government and private sector. As the nation continues its digital journey, the impact of DPI is expected to reverberate across sectors, paving the way for sustainable development.


In conclusion, Zambia’s commitment to digital transformation through DPI is a testament to its vision for an inclusive and technology-driven future.

By addressing key areas such as digital ID and registry, digital payments, and secure data exchange, the nation is laying the groundwork for a vibrant and connected digital economy. Zambia is well on the path to emerge as a beacon of progress in the digital landscape, ready to embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.

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