Zamtel – Outside the Lines
Zamtel’s reputation dates back to the beginning of Zambia’s first phone lines, but in the 21st century it is doing far more than that.
Zamtel’s history goes back to the installation of Zambia’s first analogue telephone exchange in Livingstone in 1913. Since then the company has undergone numerous transformations to become the forward-looking telecommunications company it is today. When we look at the modern incarnation of Zamtel we see a company that is strategically moving away from its traditional operations into a much more focused position in the telecommunications industry.
“We’re not just providing mobile phones and ways to communicate, but providing technological support for other areas, like education, medical, and improving the operations of the digital sector,” explains Danny Luswili, Zamtel’s Chairman. “Our unique selling point is that we are looking further into the future of the telecommunications industry. It’s changing, not just because of Covid pandemic but because of the way the telecommunications industry has evolved over the years.”
It is impossible to deny that telecommunications have found their way into every area of our lives, and Zamtel’s strategy acknowledges the importance of parity of operations and digital platform.
“More and more people are using platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to communicate, especially post-COVID, so the telecommunications industry is much wider than it was,” Luswili points out.
Escaping the Past
In meeting these needs, Zamtel has sometimes struggled because its long history, while something to be proud of, can mean customers are more likely to associate the company with days gone by.
“The challenges first of all have to do with our connection to the past,” Luswili admits. “We have always been known as a company that provided the infrastructure for the landline phones in the olden days, so when other telecommunications companies moved into the mobile network providers sector, we were left behind as approval took a bit of time to come through. We could not get the required support and approval, at that time, to move into the mobile telecommunications area. So we needed to catch up with the competition.”
Fortunately, over the last five years, Zambia’s wider telecommunications industry has seen a great deal of investment, which has given Zamtel just the boost it needs.
“We’ve managed to close that gap, not just by providing the mobile network, but because we’ve gone into other sectors, such as health, for example,” Luswili says. “We are one of the only telecommunication companies providing support to the healthcare sector with a platform for doctors and other medical staff to use to manage operations.”
This platform, which goes by the name “Venous”, is an Integrated Digital Health Management System. It has been developed by Zamtel and Zcom Systems to act as a customized platform offering a secure, integrated digital solution that enhances operational efficiencies for healthcare providers.
Venous allows health workers to enjoy automated record management, improved clinical decisions and quicker and more coordinated patient care. Its key benefits also include a significant reduction in drug thefts and the generation of real-time analytics, giving hospital authorities necessary statistics for ease of management and decision making.
All of this has come in particularly handy in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Venous allows for a reduction in physical interactions between patients and medical personnel. It also comes with a mobile app that allows patients to make appointments, change hospital appointments and receive notifications of hospital appointment dates. But that’s not all.
“We’ve also gone into education,” says Luswili. “We are working with the Minister of Education to provide training using our network.”
Working with the Examinations Council of Zambia and the Ministry of General Education Zamtel has launched an interactive e-learning portal and Smart Revision platform to ensure continued learning even when schools are closed. These portals, launched in tandem, provide a complete package for alternative and supplementary learning resources as the Ministry of Education works to bridge learning gaps due to the closure of schools in light of Covid-19. It includes e-books, links to specialised services, and a virtual library, while also hosting past exam papers, model answers and revision tips for grades seven to nine and twelve, as well as General Certificate of Education (GCE) candidates.
“We’ve also provided a platform to municipal councils for them to manage things over a mobile digital network provider,” Luswili explains. “Councils are using our facilities to run their cash flow management and operations.”
All of these platforms are provided alongside products and services never-before-seen in Zambia, such as unlimited internet access.
The Best on the Market
Zamtel’s story is a success story, but as Luswili points out, it is a story built on the efforts of its people.
“I can tell you our staff are the best-qualified staff in the market,” he says proudly. “We’ve some of the best engineers. We’ve got a vigorous training program where we provide experience, take fresh graduates and develop them to give them that insider experience. They’ve developed into a formidable team that can develop its own products.”
As well as opportunities for growth and development, Zamtel’s staff are also given the chance to use their creativity.
“In the area of innovation, every member of staff is given a chance to come up with an idea or a project we can put out,” Luswili says. “We’re empowering our staff, appreciating their service.”
Zamtel is a government-owned company, and its success is Zambia’s success, so it’s no surprise that Zamtel is using its position to improve the lives of Zambians.
“We’ve supported several schools in Zambia by providing internet services, as well as helping to renovate schools,” Luswili tells us. “In the medical sector we support the biggest university hospital in Zambia, have renovated a ward there and provide digital services to that whole hospital. We’re quite active in that sector.”
Over and again, talking with Luswili, it’s clear that while Zamtel’s heritage is a great one, what he’s really excited about is where the company is going next.
“When it comes to the future of Zamtel, I speak with a lot of pride. We’re focused on several areas. We’ve recently planned out a strategy to 2024,” he says. “We want to win with our customers. Service and revenue growth are critical to us. We want to be the company that offers the best service. Our products must be the best in the market, with enough market development. Telecommunications is going from 3g to 4g to 5g, and we need to keep up.”
It’s not a market Zamtel will be able to compete in by playing it safe.
“Innovation is key,” Luswili insists. “We have built a disruptive and innovative agenda, coming up with products and services that will disrupt the industry and improve our customers’ experience. For the future of Zambia, we’re not just running the telecommunications industry, we want to change lives.”