WINDHOEK – Information and communication technology (ICT) does not contribute to the Namibian economy in the same way that perhaps the fishing or mining sectors do. However, indirectly the ICT sector contributes a great deal through knowledge and skills development.
Recently, the news was released that Namibia continues to improve its position on the Global ICT ranking index, according to the United Nations report on ICT. This, of course, is very encouraging and proof of the country’s commitment to becoming a digital and technologically innovative force to reckon with in Africa. Improving the rankings requires great determination and investment, as well as collaboration between different stakeholder groups and what is clear is that the government cannot face this challenge alone.
“Through knowledge development, skills training of graduates and employing highly educated people. On top of that, the other major players in the Namibian economy, whether the financial services sector, mining or any of the other sectors would not be able to function without ICT. We are not overstating it when we say that ICT and related services are the foundation upon which the economy runs, grows and hopefully thrives,” said Managing Director of Green Enterprise Solutions, Llewellyn le Hané.
He added that the Fourth Industrial Revolution provides the solution to uplift Namibia and Africa as a continent.
“We can fully embrace new technology, innovations, cloud services and avoid mistakes that the early adopters made. We can engage and implement best practices and adapt them to our own needs and circumstances. We must engage and implement the best possible solutions, hardware and people to continue to improve our ICT rankings in the coming years. We must let technology and innovation work for us in our quest for economic development,” Le Hané emphasized.
He added that Namibia must lead from the front in innovation and in embracing technology.
“However, I realise people are hesitant. Since the first Industrial Revolution, people have been wary of change. It’s human nature to be wary of change, the status quo is safe and secure. However, not developing and not innovating will not keep us safe and secure. It will certainly not lead to economic prosperity and development, something we so desperately need,” Le Hané cautioned.
What is quite evident is that Namibia and Namibians need to embrace and develop technology to become competitive in an ever more connected world. This is certainly a daunting national challenge but it also provides Namibia with opportunities.
The mere fact that Namibia is relatively under-developed is a blessing in disguise as this enables the country to leap-frog certain technologies that have since evolved or have become obsolete. The country is not encumbered by old networks or ICT equipment that needs costly upgrades. This allows the country to embrace new technology, embrace cloud services and avoid mistakes that the early adopters made. We can engage and implement best practices and adapt them to our own needs and circumstance, said Le Hané.
In this regard, ICT experts have advised that Namibia has a chance to build networks, acquire and develop tailormade technology that suits its particular set of challenges and issues, using the latest technology available.
In fact, Vision 2030, the different national development plans and most recently the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP) continue to build on an ICT blueprint and have a common thread of implementing and leveraging ICT in the broadest sense to achieve national ambitious and reachable goals.
“We can implement the most secure connections, ensure security and privacy are always at the foundation of anything that we develop. As well as approaching every issue and challenge we face as a nation, whether it is in education, manufacturing, healthcare or socio-economic development, asking the question; “How can ICT help solve this problem?” This is the only way in which we can become a knowledge-based society as well as ensure our future and the future of our children is prosperous and guaranteed…and keep rising up the Global ICT rankings,” said former ICT Minister, Tjekero Tweya.
Meanwhile, ICT in all its forms and through its implementation at every level of society can and should lead the charge in making government and State-Owned Enterprises dynamic, agile, relevant and economic. In an extremely challenging economic environment where cost-cutting measures are the name of the game, being able to streamline activities, projects and processes with the use of ICT can lead to real reductions in spending while at the same time maintaining or in fact improving service delivery and efficiency.
Said Managing Director of MultiChoice Namibia, Roger Gertze; “As Africa’s leading video entertainer, we believe that promotion and access to communication technology is an integral part of enriching the lives of our customers. A key ingredient of business prosperity and sustainability is having the right partners, an enabling government as well as regulatory regimes which stimulate business including the broader economy and creates prosperity for all.”
Gertze noted that as a responsible corporate citizen, MultiChoice Namibia makes a direct economic impact of approximately US$15 million on the Namibian GDP.
Major ICT players and stakeholders all agree that one of the most crucial aspects of harnessing ITC is to develop homegrown talent through internships with relevant companies and by stimulating tertiary institutions to continue focusing on ICT skills development. Industry insiders also caution that Namibia has to ensure that skills and experience do not leave the country by the backdoor, which will keep local ICT knowledge in its infancy.
In addition, government has been advised to seek out cutting edge technology through public-private partnerships and engage and implement the best possibly solutions, hardware and people to continue to improve on service delivery in every sector. The tools that ICT can provide would give Namibia a competitive edge, as long as Namibians take the plunge and embrace the use of technology and innovation to its full advantage.
Namibia is strategically positioned to implement the most secure connections and to ensure security and privacy are always at the foundation of anything locally develop. But, one of the major challenges we face as a nation and as a continent is that of the ‘digital divide’.
Children in Europe, Asia and North America are exposed to ICT from a young age and learn the ins and outs while at play with iPads, laptops, games consoles, etc. Meanwhile, we have children who have never seen a computer, or who need to share one between a whole class or school. This, experts say, needs to change if Namibia wished to advance and truly become a leader in innovation and technology.
“This would signify a real and tangible investment in the future of Namibia, its economy and overall well-being…aside from the fact that we need to be computer literate if we want any chance of competing globally in this interconnected village,” Le Hane concluded.