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African Journal of Media and Communication Studies Vol 3 (1) pp 14-20 Copyright: © 2017

AJMCS - Open Access - Online @

The impact of new media technologies on Zambia’s 2016

presidential elections

Daniel Tonga
Journalist, Media Consultant and Economist 274/4 Chawama, Lusaka, Zambia
Corresponding Email:

The emergence of new media technologies has changed the way in which political
communication takes place in Zambia. On 11thAugust 2016, Zambia held
presidential, parliamentary and local government elections in which nine political
parties massively used new media technologies to campaign before and during
elections. The utilisation of new media technologies by political parties introduced
a new way in political communication and had a great impact on how politics are
conducted in Zambia. This study aims to assess the effectiveness of new media
technologies in political campaigns during the time of elections. For the first time,
ever in the political history of Zambia, political parties used new media
technologies massively in political campaigns to engage the electorate and this has
brought a new facet in political communication which has now became beneficial
to Zambian politics and culture. This paper examines how new media technologies
influenced political campaigns in the presidential elections and how they have
shaped modern day politics in Zambia.
Keywords: Elections; New Media; Campaign Strategies; Political
Communication; Technologies; Voters

1.0 Introduction compete and communicate campaign messages

New media technologies are changing the through new media technologies to reach
nature of political communication around the masses. Today, political parties own political
world and this is because they are now being party websites, Facebook accounts, Twitter,
used as tools to mobilize campaign and secure YouTube and blogs to interact with voters and
political support. Most political party their supporters. They also use new media
presidents and senior leaders in democratic technologies to access the impact they are
states around the world have secured victories making on the electorate. In a nutshell, the use
in elections as a result of using new media of new media technologies is a common trend
technologies in political campaigns. In almost in developed nations like the US and is now
every democratic nation where elections are gaining ground in developing nations like
called and held, politicians have made use of India, Malaysia and now Zambia. An
new media technologies to engage masses and interesting example is Zimbabwe where new
communicate their political message. The media technologies were used in national
main purpose of doing this has been to elections in 2008.
mobilise and solicit for electoral votes from In Zambia, before new media technologies
supporters so that they can vote for them. were introduced, political communication was
Diana Owen (2014) indicated that grassroots done mainly through public speeches in
political movements employ new media campaigns, political rallies, radio, TV
technology as a means of getting their message message, newspaper and posters among other
out and mobilizing their supporters. ways. Today, the introduction of new media
As per norm, political parties’ world over technologies has brought a shift in the way
mainly in democratic states compete with each political parties communicate. This change has
other in elections in so many ways and with been facilitated by one most important factor,
the coming of new media technologies the internet. Not only has the internet
competition has become stiff. Political rivals facilitated political communication but has

African Journal of Media and Communication Studies Vol 3 (1) pp 14-20 Copyright: © 2017
AJMCS - Open Access - Online @

aided the use of new media technology in the smartphones and other mobile devices has
whole election process. increase access to internet in Zambia.
For the past years, all political campaigns According to International
held in Zambia have mainly focused much Telecommunication Union ITU (2016), the
attention on political rallies, meetings, number of people using internet in Zambia has
seminars, door to door, radio, TV and posters increased between 2015 and 2016.
to mobilise support from people. This has been Table 1.0 shows the number of internet users
a common trend which some believe belong to and penetration
old age politics which consume much time and
is not very effective. Therefore, when Zambia Table 1.1
held its presidential, parliamentary and local
government elections in 2016, a wave of
change took place in which all nine political
parties that participated in the election mainly
presidential, for the first time adopted the use
on new media technologies in their political Source: International Telecommunication
campaigns in addition to what they have been Union ITU (2016)
accustomed to in all the past elections held.
The introduction of new media The increase in internet penetration has
technologies in political campaigns facilitated facilitated easy political communication as
a change in which information was many people have access to internet. During
disseminated to the electorate. All political political campaigns in the presidential
parties effectively made use of new elections, the increase and availability of
technologies in their campaigns differently in mobile phones made political campaigns
order to communicate their political easier for all political parties that participated
campaigns to the electorate. The use of new in the general elections. Political parties took
technologies has changed politics rapidly and advantage of an increase in mobile phones to
with the passage of time the country has promote political campaign messages.
become more democratic and use of internet 1.2 Mobile Phones in Zambia
has leveraged this situation. As part of new media technologies, the
1.1 Internet in Zambia proliferation of mobile phones in Zambia has
Internet began experimentation in Zambia in aided the use of new media technologies in
1991 with the first development of dial up political campaigns.
connection and forward emails services. In According to Zambia Information and
1993, government liberalised policies allowed Communications Technology Authority
the establishment of Internet Service Providers ZICTA (2015), Zambia has now a significant
ISPs. The ISP subsector became among the increase in the number of mobile phone
most competitive in the ICT industry. By subscribers from 2.6 million in 2007 to 10.9
2015, there were 24 licenced ISP with Zambia million in 2015. This increase has been
Information and Communications Technology facilitated by increased investment in the sub-
Authority ZICTA, a regulatory body. Since sector by mobile network service providers.
then, number of ISPs grew in Zambia. The increase in subscriber base corresponds
According to latest figures from the Zambia to an improvement in service penetration
Information and Communications Technology relative to the population from 22.5 percent in
Authority ZICTA (2016), the country now has 2007 to 70.3 percent in 2015, in a country with
6.1 million internet users, representing a over 15 million people. The global system for
penetration rate of 39 percent. MTN is the mobile communications (GSM) coverage,
leading internet mobile service provider which is currently at over 80 percent of the
currently with 45.5 percent of the data market, country’s surface area, is expected to reach
followed by Airtel with 40.1 percent and 100 percent in few years.
Zamtel with 14.4 percent. Apart from these Research reports indicate that mobile phone
mobile network providers there are other penetration rate has reached 74.3% of the
internet service providers. The liberalised population, with 11.6 million subscribers out
market has also allowed the importation of of 15 million Zambians. In addition, the latest
mobile phones and the adoption of report by ZICTA indicates that Zambia has an

African Journal of Media and Communication Studies Vol 3 (1) pp 14-20 Copyright: © 2017
AJMCS - Open Access - Online @

estimated 6.1 million mobile internet users There were nine political parties that
with subscriber base of customers distributed participated in the last presidential election.
as by mobile telecommunication provider These political parties and their leaders
MTN, Airtel, Zamtel and others. include: Lungu Edgar C of Patriotic Front PF,
1.3 Political Campaigns Hichilema Hakainde of United Part for
The political campaign period was officially National Development UPND, Edith Nawakwi
launched by the Electoral Commission of of Forum for Democracy and Development
Zambia ECZ in early 2011 paving way for all FDD, Andyford M Banda of People’s Alliance
political parties to campaign. This provided an for Change PAC, Wynter M Kabimba of
opportunity for people to assess all nine Rainbow Party, Saviour Chishimba of United
aspiring presidential candidates and their Progressive Party UPP, Tilyenji Kaunda of
political party messages. The launch of United National Independence Party UNIP,
political campaigns set a stage for political Peter Sinkamba of GREENS and Maxwell
parties to communicate their messages through Mwamba of Democratic Alliance DA. These
various forms. During this time, political political parties took active roles in election
campaign messages were communicated by campaigns.
political parties through many channels. Below Table 2.0 shows all political parties
Political parties used billboards, radio, TV, that participated in the last presidential
posters, adverts, rallies, meetings and seminars election that have either a website or Facebook
to campaign. For the purposes of this research, account. The table gives details of how often
this paper will focus on the most common the website and Facebook account were
which political parties used mostly for the first updated to show frequency of use by political
time, news media technologies. parties to communicate political campaign
New media technologies are any type of messages.
applications meant to transfer information via Official websites and Facebook account of
digital techniques, computerized systems or the political parties.
data networks. New media technologies can
best be described as content made available Table 2.1: Official websites and Facebook
using different forms of electronic
communication made through the use of
computer technology and Internet. Content is
created and done through websites, blogs,
Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and twitter
accounts. Content through new media
technologies is quick and live at times.

2.0 Methodology
The purpose of this research was to analyse the
usage of new media technologies and how
they influenced political campaigns in the last
presidential elections. This part of research
provides a detailed overview of the
methodological approach and design to find
out to what extent new media technologies had
an impact on election campaigns during
August 11, 2016 presidential elections.
This study looks at a two (2) months period Source: Field data, 2016
from 1st July to August 31st 2016 and this is
mainly to determine to what extent new media Below Table 2.2 shows photos and videos that
technologies had an impact on the political were either uploaded or not on political party’s
campaigns during this period. This research website and Facebook account. This data
paper adopts content analysis, survey and below indicates the frequency of photos and
interviews with respondents who were voters. videos update in the period under review. All
The study analyses content on websites, photos and videos and their frequency of
Facebook, twitter, blogs and mobile phones. update indicated how often political parties

African Journal of Media and Communication Studies Vol 3 (1) pp 14-20 Copyright: © 2017
AJMCS - Open Access - Online @

used them to communicate. Official photos Advertisement of political parties’ messages

and videos were done and updated. on internet
Table 2.4 below shows all political parties’
Table 2.2: Photos and videos messages and websites where adverts of
political parties appeared. This data below
shows the most common means of
advertisement on which the political messages
were carried on organisations websites. Where
these appeared shows how political parties
used advertisement to communicate.

Table 2.4: political parties’ messages and


Source: Field data, 2016

Below Table 2.3shows all political parties

SMS text messages that all political parties
sent to people by phones. These text messages
where from political parties to potential voters.
The same messages where replicated and sent Source: Field data, 2016
from people to people urging others to vote
theparty of their preference. This data below 2.5 Interviews
indicates political parties that used SMS to Chava Frankfort Nachmias and David
reach potential voters to vote for them. Nachmias (2006) observed that the selection of
Political campaigns done through SMS on respondents is determined largely by the
phone nature of the study and characteristics of the
population. In order to understand a how most
Table 2.3: political parties SMS text respondents received their campaign
messages messages, interviews were conducted with
different people that either voted or planned to
vote. The main essence of these interviews
was to determine how the electorate received
campaign political messages from political
parties at the time of campaignThis research
study interviewed 20 respondents in the study.
The interview was a random face-to-face
interviewand the aim of the interview was to
find out how respondents received political
campaign messages and how they responded.
Out of the twenty (20) respondents, sixteen
(16) were mobile phone users and had access
to radio and TV. Four respondents had no
Source: Field data, 2016 mobile phones but had access to TV and

African Journal of Media and Communication Studies Vol 3 (1) pp 14-20 Copyright: © 2017
AJMCS - Open Access - Online @

Radio. The respondents were selected at method. The use of SMS message by mobile
random from different class. phone helped some parties to gain political
support through appeals in short message
3.0 Analysis system. The more access to mobile phones that
From the review of the data analysed from the people have, the more the chances political
tables and interviews on news media parties reached people with political messages.
technologies and election campaign, this In table 5.0, data shows that all political
research study looks at how political parties parties had political message sent to vote for
used media technologies to influence the them through Facebook, news and
electorate to vote for them. In an article, 4 organisations website to send the campaign
Ways Technology Has Impacted Presidential messages. All parties used Facebook, news
Elections, Zach Cutler (2015) assets that the and eight organisations. Three used YouTube
more in touch candidates are with technology, account. This data shows that other than
the more people they will reach. political parties’ websites and Facebook
Understanding new technologies and trends is accounts, political parties used other
now key part of connecting with voters and organisations website to communicate their
running a successful campaign. political campaign messages to masses during
From the data collected above, all the the time of elections.
political parties used new media technologies Given this data, three (3) political parties
to reach out to masses. Table 2.0 shows that are comparatively largest and well-funded
political parties that have either a website or set up websites that they used in their
Facebook account. From the table, four 4 campaigns and this played a key role to reach
political parties have both a website and out to masses as well as through the use of
Facebook account and three of these political other social media platforms. Six (6) political
parties updated their websites and Facebook parties did not have the website to campaign
account every day except one party Rainbow but they made use of social media platform
party which has a website but updated it mainly Facebook to campaign and reach out to
website rarely. Five political parties did not the electorate in the elections.
have a website but have Facebook account and According to the survey, Facebook was the
one updated its accounts every day with the mostly used form of new media by all political
rest of those parties that have a website. Four parties to communicate their political
parties rarely updated their Facebook account. messages in the political campaigns and this
This data shows that political parties used was because of its reach facilitated by an
more of new media technologies to increase in the number of people using mobile
communicate their messages by website or phones. So, mobile phones played an effective
Facebook account during periods of campaign. role and were highly reachable by most people
From the data collected, table 3.0 shows all as the most form of media. Political parties
political parties took photos with three parties updated their Facebook and some of them
updating these photos on their websites and rarely updated including pictures, videos and
Facebook account every day, one rarely. Five content.
parties didn’t update because they didn’t have This research also takes into account that
a website but managed to update on their through Facebook, supporters of political
Facebook account rarely. On videos five parties used blogs to appeal for support for
parties had videos of which two parties their preferred political candidate. This was
updated them on Facebook every day, two done through blogs and these blogs were
rarely on website and five parties did not. Five connected to Facebook to reach the electorate
parties rarely updated their videos on easily. As it has been observed that, bloggers
Facebook and four parties did not. From table disseminate information and gain followers
3.0, it’s easy to explain that parties used new who forge new communities that may be
media differently. spurred to take offline action (Weiss, 2012).
In Table 4.0, the table shows political There were frequent posts of campaign
parties that used SMS text messages to appeal pictures and videos by political parties
for support using mobile phones. Four political compared to other parties. This explains why
parties used SMS message to send potential other political parties were able to
voters and five of them did not use this

African Journal of Media and Communication Studies Vol 3 (1) pp 14-20 Copyright: © 2017
AJMCS - Open Access - Online @

communicate much better than other parties these political campaigns were around the
that did not have many pictures and videos. country.
Political campaign adverts were also The study reveals that all political parties
common on media website and other hugely used new media technologies to
organisations. Another media for adverts was communicate to masses during the period of
YouTube as political parties put campaign political campaigns. The availability and
messages before any content was shown on increase of mobile phones on the market
YouTube video. largely aided dissemination of political
Through use of mobile phones, political campaigns as they had a wide reach among
parties formed party WhatsApp groups in different classes of people. This paper finds
which they sent political campaign messages that the use of internet was common and this
to solicit votes for them. Further, this was enabled people to easily access information on
facilitated by affiliate groups in which political campaigns. Mobile phones and
messages where communicated to different Internet played a huge role on the campaigns
potential voters. This was done through the use as they had an effect on masses. This
of mobile phones and mobile apps. For some development is supported by technological
political parties, campaign messages where determinism theory which states that society's
sent using twitter account and this assisted in technology determines its cultural values,
disseminating their political campaign social structure, and history. According to this
messages. theory, social progress follows an inevitable
In the interview conducted, sixteen (16) course that is driven by technological
respondents were mobile phones users. This innovation.
indicated that the most commonly source of In a developing country like Zambia, as new
their information regarding political campaign media technologies are developing, new media
messages were Facebook. They indicated that will mostly be adopted as a means to mobilise,
they were exposed to radio and TV and made campaign and communicate to masses. It’s
use of the information but relied heavily on evident that new media technologies were a
social media on latest political campaign dominant factor in transforming society
messages. They also informed this research especially how people made use of them
that they spend much time on internet than during political campaigns and presidential
listening to radio and watching TV. The other elections.
four respondents indicated that their source of Despite political parties holding rallies,
information was first radio and TV news meetings, door-to-door campaigns and
bulletin. They indicated that they did not have seminars much of the communication was
mobile phones to access news and information done through new media technologies to reach
on internet. as many voters as possible. Most common and
valued means of political communication by
4.0 Findings and conclusions all political parties was Facebook, website and
This research reveals surprising facts. The blogs. These brought political parties much
findings are based particularly on the data needed attention as these forms were much
gathered and analysed through this study. This followed by a lot of people during the
research study finds that all political parties in campaigns. In addition, political parties used
the last presidential general election used new other organisation’s websites and YouTube by
media technologies to campaign and placing political adverts on the websites to
communicate political messages to the campaign. This helped political parties to
electorate. The electorate mostly sourced widen their political messages. Internet
information about political parties on websites, advertisement on websites reached large
Facebook and other social media accounts. numbers and this made the campaign more
Although the old-fashion way of political effective.
campaigns of traversing around the country The survey also revealed that some
holding rallies, meetings and door-to-door respondents were aware of the political party
campaigns was common in the campaigns, websites and Facebook accounts. They
new media technologies aided the accessed most of the political information
dissemination of information from wherever about political campaigns through their phones
despite the fact that there had access to radio

African Journal of Media and Communication Studies Vol 3 (1) pp 14-20 Copyright: © 2017
AJMCS - Open Access - Online @

and TV. They revealed that they had more World Bank, and United Nations
time to be on Facebook and website using their Population Division.
phone unlike listening to radio and watching Political Communication in Malaysia: A
TV. Study on the Use of New Media in
For the first time in Zambia, new media Politics Pauline Leong (2015)
technologies were massively used by political
parties to communicate in political campaigns ns/2015ICTSURVEYREPORT.pdf
messages which helped to cut geographical
distances and allowed smooth flow of
communication. In developed nations like US, 06/6-million-zambia-accessing-
Barrack Obama’s victory in the 2008 internet-zicta/
presidential elections was accredited to use of
Facebook, YouTube and Twitter and while 450
this is so in most developed nations, The Zimbabwe Guardian (,
developing countries like Zambia are adopting 29 June 2008.
this strategy and this is changing the way content/uploads/2016/11/State-of-
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This research finds that new media Chava Frankfort-Nachmias, David
technologies mainly internet, social media and Nachmias (2006)Research Methods in
mobile phones had much influence on the Social Sciences (5) fifth edition.
Zambia’s August 11, 2016 political campaigns
and elections They offered new opportunities.
The contemporary political campaign adopted
new media technologies that improved reach
and communications and at the same time
improved political party campaign strategies.
This new strategies have produced a new
political culture that has huge implication in
Zambia. Therefore, new media technologies Party-Zambia-390150647820900/
increased political participation and dialogue - Patriotic Front
something that was not present before and as as website
the country’s democracy develops this will be
a case. Based on this research, new media tzambia/
technologies can be used to mobilise,
campaign and reach masses with political Alliance-for-Change-PAC-
messages. They have transform society and
changed Zambia’s modern day politics.
Diana Owen, The Oxford Handbook of ewzambia/
Political Communication, Political
Science, Political Institutions, Political ns/
Behavior May 2014
ICT survey report - households and alliance-partyZambia-
individuals survey on access and 1375584712746156/
usage of information and
communication technology by
households and individuals in
Zambia (2015)
Elaboration of data by International
Telecommunication Union (ITU),