WINDHOEK - The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) will soon set in motion the process of developing a National Digital Strategy (NDS), which is to be pursued in partnership with various industry stakeholders.
Minister of ICT Stanley Simataa yesterday revealed this development when he officially opened the fifth national ICT Summit in the capital, which this year takes place under the theme “Digital transformation for an ICT smart Namibia.”
The NDS is expected to provide a comprehensive roadmap that will guide the country’s digitisation agenda.
“Digital transformation is therefore a key initiative that should steer our country’s efforts to achieve its goals of economic prosperity for all and improve Namibia’s competitiveness in an increasingly globalised world. In fact, as a developing nation, Namibia is well-positioned to benefit from the agility of this development by addressing specific challenges in a quicker and more cost-effective way.
We are not overburdened by legacy infrastructural issues. We have the ability to leapfrog some of the developed nations,” said Simataa.
He added it is therefore imperative for speakers and delegates at the ICT Summit to be immersed in in-depth discussions on these issues so as to determine how best digital transformation could support Namibia’s developmental initiatives, including how best such transformation can position the country to leverage the onset of the 4th industrial revolution.
Simataa asked delegates to ponder what digital transformation means for Namibia and what benefits the country can derive from this development.
Answering his own question, Simataa said digitalisation would mean improved efficiency and service delivery as digital operations will greatly reduce red tape and generate greater efficiencies and quality service delivery, and that digital operations will lead to a concomitant decrease in corruption.
He quoted a study by the Suffolk University in Boston, USA, which found that as the use of information and communication technology increases, corruption decreases.
“Although privacy and data security concerns continue to linger, it is an undeniable fact that digitisation reduces the degree of manipulation which is symptomatic of existing traditional systems. Increased investment in digital skills will certainly boost existing levels of digital literacy. Investing in digital skills gives rise to more knowledgeable workers that are digitally literate. Although automation and digitalisation may lead to replacement of lower skilled jobs or administrative and routine tasks, skilled workers will be released to focus more on productive activities. Equally, digitisation and automation invariably contribute to the creation of new job opportunities,” Simataa stated.
He continued that digital transformation can boost youth employment as the digital world offers new employment opportunities.
“What needs to be done is to maximise the emergence of new job opportunities by establishing a policy and financial support regime that will inspire young people to fully exploit their entrepreneurial and innovative potential,” he said.
Simataa added that another benefit is that digital operations have the potential to bridge gender gaps and other forms of inequality. “Many women often have to choose between career and family. However, the advent of digitally connected ‘virtual offices’ has rendered this choice irrelevant as mothers can work anywhere and at any time. Many of the latest technological advancements are aiding individuals with special needs to become functional and productive members of our society, thus no longer reliant on the benevolence of fellow citizens,” said Simataa.
The minister cautioned, however, that digital transformation is not without challenges. The first challenge, he said, is to keep pace with increased global competitiveness as the 4th industrial revolution will make various economic activities, particularly in the manufacturing sector, much more competitive on a global scale. Also, he noted that a major challenge for Namibia, and for the rest of Africa, is the issue of accessibility and connectivity.
“We need to make substantial investments in infrastructure and new technologies to yield significant developments and encourage the adoption of the latest applications. We should also address our nemesis of skewed availability of electricity – one of the greatest obstacles to equitable connectivity and access to information,” said Simataa.