OKAHANDJA – Information and communication technology minister Peya Mushelenga has urged stakeholders in the ICT sector to redouble efforts to ensure 100% internet coverage nationwide.
“A majority of our population does not have access to the internet – or if there are internet services in their areas, the signals are not so strong, and therefore connectivity is poor,” said Mushelenga, who was speaking during the launch of a network tower installed by PowerCom at Okahandja yesterday.
“That (slow internet) naturally causes frustration among internet users. We, thus, need to redouble our efforts and work very hard as stakeholders in the ICT sector to make the internet more accessible and secure 100% across every nook and cranny of our beautiful country,” he explained.
According to Mushelenga, half of Namibians do not have internet access.
He said the long-term vision, as a country, puts a strong emphasis on human capital development, education and infrastructure as pillars that will transform the country and put it on the road to economic prosperity.
“It is, therefore, imperative for our efforts to be geared towards inclusive empowerment and accessibility of resources and opportunities. We can not afford half of our Namibian population to lag in terms of digital transformation,” he said.
Besides access to the internet, Mushelenga implored network operators to make ICT services and products affordable for everyone.
“For instance, devices such as smartphones should be made affordable and available to all sectors of society. At the moment, these gadgets are financially out of reach of the common man and woman on the street. In addition to accessibility and affordability, we need to educate our people on the various benefits of technology, such as starting small businesses from their smartphones, laptops or tablets. They should not merely use technology on things that are in no way beneficial to their social and economic wellbeing,” he said.
However, he said, as much as people celebrate the internet and the wonderful things it can do for them in terms of enhancing experiences and accelerating service delivery, the public must be mindful of the threats that it also poses.
“We, thus, need to be keenly aware of the threats we face, and develop the capacity and ability to withstand and overcome these threats,” Mushelenga said.
Although there is a remarkable digital divide, Mushelenga said new network towers are part of a response to bridging the gap.
“The symbolism of this unveiling is simply to express and demonstrate how committed and dedicated government is to accelerating internet access and narrowing the digital divide in our country,” he said.
PowerCom board chairperson Eldorette Harmse said since the current board’s tenure, the company has thus far erected and installed nine towers to the combined value of roughly about N$9 million countrywide.
“Six of these nine towers are to be accounted for in the current financial year. We are on track to construct 17 more towers to the combined estimated value of N$21.6 million. Construction of eleven of these 17 towers is due to commence in the next two to three weeks,” she said.
PowerCom CEO Beatus Amadhila said with its current five-year strategic plan cycle that started on 1 October 2021 and ends on 30 September 2026, the organisation is keen to amend the previous shortcomings and challenges.
“We are currently in a process of awarding eleven more sites to the successful bidders to the tune of a combined value of N$14.4 million, and we anticipate construction to commence within the next two to three weeks,” he said.